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HARLES Wesley, in feeble health, seems to have spent 1764
the year 1764 in London and in Bristol. Whitefield was in America, and so much an invalid, that he could only preach about thrice a week. Though distant, he affectionately remembered his old friend Wesley. Hence the following.
“ PHILADELPHIA, September 25, 1764. “REVEREND AND DEAR SIR, Your kind letter, dated in January last, through the negligence of those that received the parcel, did not reach me till within these few days. I have been mercifully carried through the summer's heat; and, had strength permitted, I might have preached to thousands and thousands thrice a day. Zealous ministers are not so rare in this new world as in other parts. Here is room for a hundred itinerants. Fain would I end my life in rambling after those that have rambled away from Jesus Christ. I am persuaded you are likeminded. I wish you and all your dear fellow labourers much prosperity. I do not repent being a poor, despised, cast out, and now almost worn out itinerant. I would do it again, if I had my choice. If you and all yours would join in praying over a poor, worthless, but willing pilgrim, it would be a very great act of charity, he being, though less than the least of all, “Reverend and very dear sir, ever yours in Jesus,
GEORGE WHITEFIELD.” 1
Whitefield was away from England; but even that was not enough to save him from the malignant attacks of his English enemies. At the very commencement of the year, the half insane watchmaker, mentioned in a previous chapter, published another of his shilling pamphlets, with the fantastic title: “Remarks upon the Life, Character, and Behaviour of the Rev. George Whitefield, as written by himself, from the time of his birth to the time he departed from his Tabernacle ; demonstrating, by astronomical calculation, that his ascension, meridian, and declination were necessarily actuated by planetary influence, and that his doctrine was not Divine mission, but from a mere fatality evident, as daily seen in the sad catastrophe of his unhappy, gloomy, and misguided fol
1 Methodist Magazine, 1782, p. 439.
1764 lowers. The whole being a choice new year's gift for
Methodists, and one of the most valuable prizes that ever
During the month of January, Wesley, besides preaching
Within three miles of the last mentioned town, at South
Wesley writes : “This is such a people as I have not seen ;
ar to Witney, at Blandford Park, resided Mr. Bolton and his unmarried sister, whose house, for many years, was one of Wesley's much loved haunts. Miss Bolton was one of Wesley's favourite correspondents, and Mr. Bolton one of his best local preachers. On one occasion, when the two friends were snugly seated in Mr. Bolton's parlour, and Wesley, as usual, was employed with his book and pen, the Witney host, wishful to draw his guest into conversation, began remarking how much pleasanter it was to live in the country than in town; “ All is silent," said he, "all retired, and no distracting noises of the busy multitude intrude themselves." “True, Neddy,” replied Wesley with his usual quickness, "but noisy thoughts may." The hint sufficed, and Neddy subsided into silence.
On February 2, Wesley reopened the old Foundery, in London, which had been closed, for several weeks, in order to be repaired and otherwise improved. “It is now," says he, “not only firm and safe, but clean and decent, and capable of receiving several hundreds more."
On February 6, he opened the new chapel at Wapping. 1764 Ten days later, he writes: “I once more took a serious walk Age 61 through the tombs in Westminster Abbey. What heaps of unmeaning stone and marble! But there was one tomb which showed common sense ; that beautiful figure of Mr. Nightingale, endeavouring to screen his lovely wife from death. Here, indeed, the marble seems to speak, and the statues appear only not alive."
It is well known, that the Rev. Martin Madan, minister at the Lock hospital, and his curate, the Rev. Thomas Haweis, were both most passionately fond of music, and themselves composers. Once a year, their chapel was turned into a concert room for the performance of oratorios ; and, on two occasions at least, Wesley was a listener. He writes: "1764, February 29.— I heard ‘Judith,' an oratorio, performed at the Lock. Some parts of it were exceeding fine; but there are two things in all modern pieces of music, which I could never reconcile to common sense. One is, singing the same words ten times over; the other, singing different words by different persons, at one and the same time. And this, in the most solemn addresses to God, whether by way of prayer or thanksgiving. This can never be defended by all the musicians in Europe, till reason is quite out of date."
He was present again the year following, when “Ruth” was the oratorio performed, and observed : “The sense was admirable throughout; and much of the poetry not contemptible. This, joined with exquisite music, might possibly make an impression even upon rich and honourable sinners.”
Some will wonder at Wesley attending the performance of oratorios ; but why so? Fault may properly be found with Martin Madan for using a place of worship for such performances; but Martin Madan was merely copying the example of his superiors, who, even then, once a year, gave the use of their cathedrals to the choirs of Gloucester, Hereford, and Worcester, for the same musical purposes. Indeed, some of the early Methodists adopted the same doubtful usage. We have before us more than one of Handel's oratorios, specially printed, for performance in Oldham Street chapel,
1764 Manchester, only two or three years after Wesley's death. All Age 61 this was dubious; indeed, we venture to designate it desecra
tion. A Christian sanctuary is a place far too sacred to be used as a place of intellectual entertainment, even though, as in the case of Martin Madan, the pleasure be of the most refined and exalted character ; but, excepting the fact that a place of worship was turned into a concert hall, who can reasonably find fault with Wesley attending the performance of the oratorios in question ? Music was a passion in the Wesley family; and no one felt it stronger than the subject of this memoir. His brother's sons, Charles and Samuel, were young Mozarts; and his own taste was exquisitely beautiful and pure. The music sung by the first Methodists was music of his own selecting; and, in after years, even he himself marvelled that, without studying the science, his selections had been so classical, and so much in harmony with the severest taste of the greatest masters. In 1768, he wrote: “I was much surprised in reading an 'Essay on Music,' written by one who is a thorough master of the subject, to find, that the music of the ancients was as simple as that of the Methodists; that their music wholly consisted of melody, or the arrangement of single notes; that what is now called harmony, singing in parts, the whole of counterpoints and fugues, is quite novel, being never known in the world till the popedom of Leo X.”
On the 12th of March, Wesley commenced his long northern journey, which occupied nearly the next five months. At Stroud, he writes: “How many years were we beating the air in this place! one wrong headed man pulling down all we could build up; but, since he is gone, the word of God takes root, and the society increases both in number and strength.”
At Birmingham, Wesley preached in the chapel which had formerly been a playhouse, and remarks: "Happy would it be, if all the playhouses in the kingdom were converted to so good an use. After service, the mob gathered, and threw dirt and stones at people going out.”
At Dudley, "formerly a den of lions, but now quiet as Bristol, they had just finished their preaching house, which was thoroughly filled.” Mr. Southall and his family were a part of the first society; in his house meetings for prayer were
Wesley on his Northern Journey.
held; and more than once were his windows smashed, and the congregation cursed with the most bitter oaths and curses.
At Wednesbury, Wesley had the largest congregation he had seen since he left London. The riots here, when Methodism was first introduced, have been already noticed. Suffice it to add further, that a quaker was the means of quelling them. This “ Friend" happening to ride through the town, the mob swore he was a preacher, pulled him from his horse, dragged him to a coalpit, and threatened to throw him in. The man of peace availed himself of law, and prosecuted his assailants at the assizes; and, from that time, the tumults of the town subsided.
At Walsall, notwithstanding the inclemency of the season, he had to preach out of doors, at seven o'clock in the morning, the chapel not being able to contain the people. Remembering past scenes, well might Wesley say, “How is Walsall changed! Now has God either tamed the wild beasts, or chained them up !"
On March 26, Wesley paid his first visit to Ashby-de-laZouch. The chapel and the chapel yard both were filled; “and I saw,” says Wesley, “but one trifler among them all, which, I understood, was an attorney. Poor man! if men live what I preach, the hope of his gain is lost."
On leaving Ashby, Wesley went to Derby, and attempted to preach in the market-place, but he no sooner announced his text than the mob raised such a noise, that he found it impossible to make himself heard ; and, hence, he quietly retired to the house of Mr. Dobinson, “an innumerable retinue" following after and throwing stones.
At Sheffield, Wesley found about sixty who professed to be entirely sanctified. He writes: “I could not learn, that any among them walk unworthy of their profession. Many watch over them for evil; but they overcome evil with good. I found nothing of self conceit, stubbornness, impatience of contradiction, or London enthusiasm, among them.”
From Sheffield, he proceeded to Rotherham, Doncaster,
I Methodist Magazine, 1823, p. 568.