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they would challenge the Methodists to fight; and, at others, 1758 sing profane songs while the Methodists sang sacred ones. In
Age 55 one instance, they smashed the seats, and windows, and pulpit of the meeting-house in Back Street; threw John Spicer into a deep ditch; and so injured Caleb Daniel that he died soon after.)
From Warminster, Wesley proceeded to Portsmouth, where he preached in Whitefield's Tabernacle. At Newport, in the Isle of Wight, he found the town filled with soldiers, "the most abandoned wretches he ever saw," and used the cornmarket as his preaching place. At Gosport, he occupied the Tabernacle ; at Fareham, "a wild multitude" was his congregation ; at Rye, he had “a crowded audience”; at Rolvenden, a “serious congregation,” skirted with “a few drunkards"; at Northjam, "the house was stowed as full as possible," and many stood in the rain outside ; at Canterbury, he had a dangerous fall from his horse, but found "the little society free from all divisions and offences." On October 21, after an absence of near eight months, he again reached London.
Four days later, he set out for Norwich. At Colchester, he preached on St. John's Green, and found that, in three months, a society of one hundred and twenty persons had been gathered. At Norwich, James Wheatley called upon him, and offered him his Tabernacle. Here he spent a week among “a settled and well united society." In returning, he visited, by request, the famous vicar of Everton.
John Berridge is too notable a man to be passed in silence. He was the son of a wealthy farmer, and was now forty-two years of age. Having taken degrees at the Cambridge university, he, in 1749, accepted the curacy of Stapleford, which he served for the next six years. In 1755, he removed to the vicarage of Everton, where he continued to reside until his death. The epitaph on his tomb, excepting the date of his death, was written by himself, and is as follows:
“Here lie the earthly remains of John Berridge, late vicar of Everton, and an itinerant servant of Jesus Christ : who loved his Master and His work; and, after running His errands many years, was called up to wait on Him above. Reader, art thou born again? No salvation
1“ Methodism in Frome," p. 41; and Methodist Magazine, 1835, p. 812.
1758 without the new birth! I was born in sin, February, 1716. Remained
ignorant of my fallen state till 1730. Lived proudly on faith and works Age 55
for salvation till 1754. Admitted to Everton vicarage, 1755. Fled to Jesus alone for refuge, 1756. Fell asleep in Christ, January 22, 1793."
This is a truthful outline of the history of this remarkable man. To fill it up would require a volume. His preaching, up to the time of his conversion, had been useless; since then, it had been full of power.
Three months before Wesley's visit, his ministry had been blessed to the Rev. Mr. Hicks, a clergyman at Wrestlingworth, about four miles from Everton, who became his companion in his itinerant tours, and was greatly useful. In learning, Berridge, it is said, was inferior to very few of the most celebrated sons of science and literature in the Cambridge, university. From his entrance at Clare Hall to his acceptance of the vicarage of Everton, a period of twenty-one years, he regularly studied fifteen hours a day. His understanding was strong; his wit almost without parallel. In stature, he was tall, but not awkward ; lusty, but not corpulent. His voice was deep, but not hoarse; strong, but not noisy ; his pronunciation distinct, but not broad. In his countenance there was gravity, without grimace: his address was solemn, but not sour; easy, but not careless; deliberate, but not drawling ; pointed, but not personal ; affectionate, but not fawning. He would often weep, but never whine. His sentences were short, but not ambiguous; his ideas collected, but not crowded. His itinerant circuit embraced the counties of Bedford, Cambridge, Essex, Hertford, and Huntingdon. In this circuit, før more than twenty years, he preached, upon an average, from ten to twelve sermons every week, and frequently rode a hundred miles. In some places, from ten to fifteen thousand persons composed his congregations. People came to hear him from a distance of twenty miles, and were at Everton by seven o'clock in the morning, at which early hour he preached. Four sermons on a Sunday were his regular work. His usefulness was great. During the first year after his conversion, he was visited by a thousand persons, under serious impressions; and it was computed, that, during the same space of time, about four thousand were awakened to a concern for the welfare of their souls, under his own and the joint ministry
of Mr. Hicks. Magistrates, country squires, and others, 1758 furiously opposed him. The old devil was the only name by Age 55 which he was distinguished among them for above twenty years; but, in the midst of all, the brave hearted, eccentric vicar steadily pursued his work. Houses and barns were rented for preaching ; lay preachers were employed and maintained ; his church income and the fortune inherited from his father were appropriated to the support and extension of his work; and even his family plate was converted into clothing for his itinerant preachers.
For nearly thirty years, he spent about three months annually in London, preaching in Whitefield's Tabernacle, in Tottenham Court chapel, and in other places. At his funeral, six neighbouring clergymen attended to bear his pall, while an immense concourse, from all parts of the country, by their undissembled grief and falling tears, paid a just eulogium to his character and worth. As he was never married, he left no widow to deplore his death, nor children to perpetuate his memory; but he long lived in the grateful remembrance of thousands, who had been benefited by his ministry; and, by his “Christian World Unmasked” and his “Sion's Songs” (the only books he ever published), he is known to myriads who never saw him. He was a high Calvinist, but a devoted Christian. Requiescat in pace! Hundreds of racy anecdotes might be told concerning him, and well-nigh thousands of his pungent and witty sayings might be quoted ; but it is time to return to Wesley.
Berridge had told the mayor of Bedford, that he wished an interview with Wesley, as soon as possible; and accordingly, on November 9, Wesley went to Everton. The two clerical itinerants started off to Wrestlingworth, to visit Hicks, a third. The same night Wesley preached in Mr. Hicks's well filled church ; lodged in the vicarage ; and preached in the church again next morning, of course having both Hicks and Berridge as his hearers. In the midst of his sermon, a woman dropped down as dead, “deeply sensible of her want of Christ.” The clerical trio then rode to Everton, where Wesley preached in Berridge's church at six in the evening, and at
1 Whittingham's Memoir of Berridge.
1758 five next morning; and where some were struck just as the Age 55
woman at Wrestlingworth. One was brought into the vicarage, with whom the three clergymen spent a considerable time
This was Wesley's first interview with Berridge. “For many years," he writes, "Mr. Berridge was seeking to be justified by his works; but, a few months ago, he was throughly convinced, that ‘by grace'we' are saved through faith.' Immediately, he began to proclaim aloud the redemption that is in Jesus; and God confirmed His word exactly as He did at Bristol, at the beginning, by working repentance and faith in the hearers, and with the same violent outward symptoms.”
This is a remarkable fact. At the commencement of Wesley's itinerant ministry, stricken cases were frequent and numerous; but, for the last fifteen years, they had been of rare occurrence. In Wesley's experience, they had principally happened, not in churches, but in barns, fields, and private meeting-rooms. Though the same puzzling phenomena had been witnessed in the great revivals in America and in Scotland, they had not been general in England, but had been chiefly confined to Kingswood, Bristol, and Newcastle upon Tyne. At the time, they created great commotion, but, for years, they had disappeared. Now, however, in 1758, under the ministry of Berridge and of Hicks, and even in parish churches, they again occurred. On one occasion, while Berridge was preaching, several persons fainted, and many in agony cried out. A little girl was thrown into violent contortions, and wept aloud incessantly. The church was crowded, the windows filled within and without, and also the pulpit steps up to the pulpit door. Three fourths of the congregation were men. Thirty of them had come thirteen miles, and, in order to be in time, had started at two o'clock in the morning. Some shrieked, others roared, but the most general sound was a loud breathing, like that of people half strangled. Numbers fell down as dead; some sinking in silence, and some in the utmost agitation.
On another occasion, when Mr. Hicks was preaching at Wrestlingworth, fifteen persons fell prostrate on the ground, a few, for hours, crying out with the greatest violence, and the rest more silently struggling, as in the pangs of death.
Remarkable Scenes at Everton.
These were novel scenes to be witnessed in a church ; but 1758 besides these, occurring in sacred buildings, there were others
Age 55 in public roads, in the vicar's garden, in fields, and in private houses, where men, women, and children were found prostrate on the ground; and great numbers were filled with peace and joy, by believing in Christ Jesus. Faces, which had been almost black with terror, now beamed with happiness. “Jesus,” cried one, " has forgiven all my sins! I am in heaven! I am in heaven! O how He loves me! And how I love Him!" Another, bathed in perspiration, and with every muscle quivering, clapped his hands, and with a smile exclaimed, “Jesus is mine! He is my Saviour !” Some burst into strange, involuntary laughter; others roared, as if possessed by demons; most were, at length, made happy.
In one instance, two hundred persons, chiefly men, were, at the same time, in Everton church, crying aloud for mercy. The groans, lamentations, prayers, and roars, were indescribable; as, also, were the shouts and the songs of praise after the penitents found peace with God.
Wesley's first visit to Mr. Berridge was on November 9. Within six weeks, on December 18, he went again; and, while preaching in the church at Everton, witnessed another scene like those that have been described; for "many," says he, “not able to contain themselves, cried aloud for mercy.”
Wesley was now on his way to Norwich, where he spent the next six days, and where, besides preaching, he completed the purchase of the chapel, which had been built by the notorious James Wheatley.
On his return to London, he called at Colchester, and makes the following important entry in his Journal : "1758, December 29-I found the society had decreased since Laurence Coughlan went away; and, yet, they had had full as good preachers. But that is not sufficient; by repeated experiments, we learn that, though a man preach like an angel, he will neither collect, nor preserve a society which is collected, without visiting them from house to house."
We have reached the end of the year 1758 ; but some other matters, belonging to this period, must have attention."
It was in 1758, that Wesley formed an acquaintance, not