Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

1764 Manchester, only two or three years after Wesley's death. All this was dubious; indeed, we venture to designate it desecration. 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

2

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,1

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."

501

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,

1 Methodist Magazine, 1823, p. 568.

2 Hampson's Life of Wesley, vol. ii., p. 32.

1764 Age 61

1764 Epworth, and Grimsby. At Rotherham, he preached at the Age 61 opening of a new chapel, a donkey, who had walked up to the door, being, as he relates, apparently one of his most attentive auditors. At Doncaster, a society had recently been formed, which met in the house of Betty Riley, and had Thomas Naylor as its leader. The rabble were rude and often violent; but truth was mighty, and its triumphs great. On one occasion, in 1765, while Jeremiah Cocker of Sheffield was preaching, a bull was driven up to him; but the preacher quietly laid his hands upon its horns, and continued his discourse. Still, for many years, Methodism in Doncaster was a feeble thing, and even as late as 1793, when it had sixty members, it raised only £1 5s. per quarter for the support of the work of God, or about a farthing and a half per member weekly. In reference to Grimsby, Wesley writes: "Grimsby, once the most dead, is now the most lively place in all the country. Here has been a large and swift increase both of the society and hearers, so that the house, though galleries are added, is still too small. The mayor and all the gentry of the town were present; and so was our Lord, in an uncommon manner. Some dropped down as dead; but, after a while, rejoiced with joy unspeakable. One was carried away in violent fits. I went to her after the service. She was strongly convulsed from head to foot, and shrieked out in a dreadful manner. The unclean spirit did tear her indeed: but his reign was not long. In the morning both her soul and body were healed, and she acknowledged both the justice and mercy of God."

This is a curious entry, which the reader is left to ponder. Proceeding to Gainsborough, Wesley no sooner began to preach in Sir Nevil Hickman's hall than a cock began crowing above his head. The noisy rival, however, was speedily dislodged, and the service was carried on in peace. Wesley then went to Hull, and Beverley, at the latter of which places, the original hive of the Methodist congregations was the house of a shoemaker, where "the Culamite preachers," as the itinerants were called, were often literally besieged by furious rabbles, and became "a hissing" to the people.

Wesley spent nearly a week at York; after which he proceeded to Helmsley, where he found his friend, the Rev. Dr. Conyers, greatly changed. The Calvinists had prejudiced him

Unpublished Letter to Lady Maxwell.

503

against the Arminians, and, notwithstanding the warmth of his friendship twelve months before, he was now suspicious, cold, and distant. The itinerant then wended his way to Scarborough, Robinhood's Bay, Whitby, Guisborough, Stokesley, Hutton, Potto, Yarm, Stockton, Darlington, Barnardcastle, and Newcastle on Tyne. He also paid a visit to Weardale, a beautiful valley, above twenty miles long, with only five places of religious worship, to which however was now added a Methodist chapel, built at High House in 1760.1

After a three weeks' stay at Newcastle and in its neighbourhood, Wesley set out for Scotland, preaching at Morpeth, Alnwick, and Berwick on his way. Nearly a month was spent in North Britain. At Edinburgh, he attended the sessions of the General Assembly; and, when he preached on Calton Hill, many of the ministers were there to hear him. With some hesitation, he joined, at the West Kirk, in the celebration of the Lord's supper. He visited Dundee, Brechin, Aberdeen, Old Meldrum, Banff, Inverness, Nairn, and other places. In several instances, he preached in the parish kirks; and remarks: "There is seldom fear of wanting a congregation in Scotland. But the misfortune is, they know everything; so they learn nothing." Two months afterwards, he wrote the following, hitherto unpublished, letter to Lady Maxwell, then a young Scotch widow of twenty-two.

"LONDON, August 17, 1764.

"MY DEAR LADY,-Since I had the pleasure of yours, I have hardly had an hour that I could call my own, otherwise I would not have delayed writing so long, as I have a tender regard for you, and an earnest desire, that you should be altogether a Christian. I cannot be content with your being ever so harmless, or regular in your behaviour, or even exemplary in all externals. You have received the fear of God already; but shall you stop here? God forbid! This is only the beginning of wisdom. You are not to end there. Fear shall ripen into love. You shall know (perhaps very soon) that love of God which passeth knowledge. You shall witness the kingdom of God within you, even righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It is no small instance of the goodness of God toward you, that you are conscious of your want of living faith. And this goodness herein is more remarkable, because almost all your neighbours would set you down for a right good believer. O beware of these flatteries. Hold fast to the convictions which God has given you. Faith,—living,

1 Manuscript.

1764

Age 61

1764

Age 61

conquering, loving faith, is undoubtedly the thing you want; and of this you have frequently a taste, to encourage you in pressing forward. Such is the tender mercy of Him that loves you! Such His desire, that you should receive all His precious promises! Do not think they are afar off. Do not imagine you must stay long months, or years, before you receive them. Do not put them off a day, an hour. Why not now? Why should you not look up this instant, and see, as it were, Jesus Christ evidently set forth, crucified before your eyes? O hear His voice, ‘Daughter, be of good cheer! thy sins are forgiven thee!' 'Say not, in thy heart, who shall go up into heaven, or who shall go down into the deep?' No! 'The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart.' 'Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!' Joy in the Holy Ghost is a precious gift of God; but, yet, tenderness of conscience is a still greater gift. And all this is for youjust ready.

'The speechless awe, that dares not move,
And all the silent heaven of love.'

"I am no great friend to solitary Christianity. Nevertheless, in so peculiar a case as yours, I think an exception may be admitted. It does seem most expedient for you, to retire from Edinburgh, at least for a season, till God has increased your strength. For the company of those who know not God, who are strangers to the religion of the heart, especially if they are sensible, agreeable persons, might quite damp the grace of God in your soul.

"You cannot oblige me more than by telling me all that is in your heart. There is no danger of your tiring me. I do not often write so long letters as this; but when I write to you, I am full of matter. I seem to see you just before me,-a poor, feeble, helpless creature, but just upon the point of salvation; upright of heart (in a measure), full of real desires for God, and emerging into light. The Lord take you whole! So prays, my dear lady, your affectionate servant,

"JOHN WESLEY."

tent.

Such was Wesley's encouraging advice to this noble peniSoon afterwards, Lady Maxwell became a member of the Methodist society, and continued such until her death in 1810.

Returning to Newcastle, Wesley started, on June 21, for Whitehaven, of whose society he writes: "What has continually hurt this poor people is offence. I found the society now all in confusion, because a woman had scolded with her neighbour, and another had stolen a twopenny loaf. The want of field preaching, also, has been one cause of deadness here. I do not find any great increase of the work of God without it. If ever this is laid aside, I expect the whole work will gradually die away."

« ZurückWeiter »