« ZurückWeiter »
A Long Tour.
evening of the same day, the society contributed £14 more for a few of its own distressed members.
The day after, he began a tour, which occupied the next two-and-thirty weeks.
On his way to Bristol, his horse dropped down dead. At Stroud, he preached in the new chapel. Towards the close of the sermon, a young man fell to the ground, and vehemently prayed for mercy. After supper, a young gentleman cried, "I am damned," and sunk prostrate on the floor. A second did so quickly after, and was much convulsed, and yet quite sensible. Leaving Stroud, Wesley proceeded to Worcester, Birmingham, Derby, and Sheffield.
At Manchester, Bolton, and Liverpool, he had overflowing congregations. He wished to embark for Ireland; but, after a fortnight's waiting, on account of unfavourable winds, he set out, on April 11, for Kendal, where Francis Gilbert resided, brother of Nathaniel Gilbert, Esq., of Antigua. Here also was Miss Mary Gilbert, a girl fourteen years of age, who had been sent by her father from Antigua to be educated, but who, three years afterwards, triumphantly expired, leaving behind her the beautiful journal which Wesley immediately published.
From Kendal, Wesley proceeded across the mountains, in the midst of a rainy hurricane, to Barnardcastle, where he examined those who, two or three years before, had professed to be entirely sanctified. The result was far from satisfactory. In London, about two thirds of the high professors had lost their confidence; and he found the same proportion in Barnardcastle.
On April 22, Wesley set out for Scotland, where he says: "my coming was quite seasonable, as those bad letters, published in the name of Mr. Hervey, and reprinted here by Mr. John Erskine, had made a great deal of noise." After preaching at Dunbar, Edinburgh, Musselburgh, and Glasgow, he made his way, in company with his itinerant, James Kershaw, along the west coast of Scotland, till he reached Portpatrick, where he and his horse got into an open boat, and crossed the Channel to Donaghadee, in Ireland.
From May 2 to August 2, he was incessantly travelling, writing, and preaching in the sister island. Coming to
1765 Londonderry, he knew no one, nor where the preacher Age 62 lodged; but while he stood musing how to act, a gentleman, on horseback, asked his name, and took him home with him. This was Alexander Knox, Esq., a member of the corporation, a scholar and a Christian, who, for thirty years, carried on a correspondence with Bishop Jebb.
After Thomas Williams, the first Methodist itinerant in Ireland, was discarded by Wesley, he visited Londonderry, became popular as a preacher, formed a society, fell into sin, married, and then went off, leaving his wife behind him. This was in 1764. Two of Williams's members wrote to Dublin for a preacher, and James Clough was sent. This was the preacher whom Wesley wanted, when he was met by Mr. Knox. Wesley's host took him to the church, and led him to a pew, where he was placed next the mayor. He gave him hospitable entertainment for a fortnight, and he and his wife became members of Wesley's society; and, though he ultimately left the Methodists, yet, as will be seen hereafter, to the end of life, he retained the profoundest respect for his friend.
During his stay with Mr. Knox, Wesley wrote as follows:"LONDONDERRY, May 14, 1765.
"DEAR SIR,-You have admirably expressed what I mean by an opinion, contradistinguished from an essential doctrine. Whatever is 'compatible with love to Christ, and a work of grace,' I term an opinion. And certainly the holding particular election and final perseverance is compatible with these.
"Yet what fundamental errors,' you ask, 'have you opposed with half that fervency as you have opposed these opinions?' I have printed near fifty sermons, and only one of these opposes them at all. I preach about eight hundred sermons a year; and, taking one year with another, for twenty years past, I have not preached eight sermons in a year upon the subject. But how many of your best preachers have been thrust out, because they dissented from you in these particulars?' Not one, best or worst, good or bad, was ever thrust out on this account. Two or three voluntarily left us, after they had embraced those opinions; and two I should have expelled for immoral behaviour; but they withdrew, and pretended not to hold our doctrine. Set a mark, therefore, on him that told you that tale, and let his word for the future go for nothing.
"Is a man a believer in Jesus Christ, and is his life suitable to his pro
1Methodist Magazine, 1835, p. 123.
A Long Tour.
fession?' are not only the main, but the sole, inquiries, I make, in order to his admission into our society. If he is a Dissenter, he may be a Dissenter still: but if he is a Churchman, I advise him to continue so.
"I think on justification, just as I have done any time these seven-andtwenty years; and just as Mr. Calvin does. In this respect, I do not
differ from him an hair'sbreadth.
“I am, dear sir, your affectionate brother and servant,
Wesley did not get to Dublin till the 18th of July, in the evening of which day, he says, "I began expounding the deepest part of the holy Scripture, namely, the first epistle of St. John, by which above all other, even inspired, writings, I advise every young preacher to form his style. Here are sublimity and simplicity together, the strongest sense and the plainest language. How can any one, that would speak as the oracles of God, use harder words than are found here?"
During Wesley's tour in Ireland, Whitefield arrived in England from America. His health was shattered; and, no sooner was he at home again, than he became the butt of malignant wit. Lloyd's Evening Post published a long "Lecture on Heads," in which Whitefield was caricatured as "the bell-wether of the flock, who had broken down orthodoxy's bounds, and was now rioting on the common of hypocrisy"; and then followed a ribald harangue put into his mouth, and far too foul for quotation.
Wesley, also, in the same periodical, had his share of personal abuse; and was calumniated as the patron of a practice then in vogue, namely that of parties of religious people using cards, with Scripture texts, to ascertain their spiritual condition, and eternal hopes.1 Both, however, were too accustomed to such scurrility, to suffer it to disturb their peace.
On August 2, Wesley embarked for England, and landed, at Whitehaven, on the 6th. He hurried to Newcastle; and, on Sunday, the 11th, preached thrice, held a covenant service, spoke for an hour at a society meeting, and rode nearly thirty miles. Pretty well, for a man more than threescore years of age.
On his way southwards, he preached at Sunderland, Dur
1 Lloyd's Evening Post, Sept. 27, 1765.
1765 Age 62
1765 ham, Yarm, Leeds, and Huddersfield.
He then rode to
Chester to preach in the octagon chapel, just erected, and said to be capable of containing from six to eight hundred people. At this period, Chester was included in the Manchester circuit, the society raising, by their united efforts, about a shilling per week for the support of their preachers.1
On August 20, Wesley opened his conference, in Manchester. The circuits in England at this period were twentyfive in number: namely-London, Sussex, Canterbury, Colchester, Norwich, Bedford, Oxfordshire, Wilts, Bristol, Devon, Cornwall (East), Cornwall (West), Staffordshire, Salop, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Sheffield, Epworth, Grimsby, Leeds, Birstal, Haworth, York, Yarm, The Dales, and Newcastle. It is a fact worth noting, that six of these circuit towns, nearly a fourth of the entire number, were in Yorkshire. In addition, there were four circuits in Scotland: namely-Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen, and Glasgow; two in Wales-Glamorganshire and Pembroke; and eight in Ireland—Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Athlone, Castlebar, Newry, and Londonderry. To these thirty-nine circuits ninety-two itinerant preachers were appointed, twelve of whom were admitted, on trial, at the present conference.
This will give the reader an idea of the growth of Methodism, during the first twenty-five years of its eventful history; and it may be added that, while at the Manchester conference, of 1765, there were only ninety-two preachers for the whole of the circuits in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, there were, a hundred years later, in 1865, not fewer than one hundred and seventeen, for the circuits in the Manchester district only; in other words, the Manchester district, only, had, in 1865, nearly one third more ministers than the whole of the Methodist connexion had in 1765.
The proceedings of the conference may be gathered from the following synopsis of its minutes.
The connexional collection for the support of Kingswood school was ascertained to be £100 9s. 7d. The yearly subscription in the classes was £707 18s.; of which £578 was devoted to the payment of chapel debts; £38 17s. was
1 Methodist Magazine, 1843, p. 380.
Conference of 1765.
spent in defraying law expenses, and the remaining £91 15. was divided among the preachers who were in want. Rules were adopted for the management of the fund for the support of superannuated preachers, their widows, and their children. Many of the chapels being still deeply involved in debt, it was determined, that no new chapel should be begun, but by the advice of one of the assistants; and that no assistant should consent to a new erection without an absolute necessity. Some of the chapels already built were not vested in trustees, and several trustees of other chapels were already dead. To remedy these defects, a person was to be sent through England, to examine the deeds, and to appoint trustees where needed. In all future buildings, there were to be sash windows, opening downwards; but no "tub pulpits," and no backs to the seats. Men and women were to sit apart everywhere; outdoor preaching had often been omitted to please societies or their stewards, but this was not to be done again; weeknight preaching, except in harvest time, was never to commence later than seven o'clock, and a lovefeast should never continue longer than an hour and a half, for every one ought to be at home by nine. Breaking bread to each other at lovefeasts, "a silly custom invented by James Wheatley," was to be discountenanced, on the ground that it created much confusion. Some of the preachers were not "merciful to their beasts," and it was directed, that hard riding should be abandoned, and that every one should "see with his own eyes his horse rubbed, fed, and bedded." It was resolved, that members, removing from one society to another, should not be received, unless they brought a certificate from the assistant officiating where they left.
Other regulations were adopted by the conference of 1765. No preacher was to print anything without Wesley's approbation. Societies and congregations were to be taught singing. The preachers were to meet the societies, bands, and children; to use intercession on Fridays; and to recommend fasting, both by precept and example. The people were to be urged to use family prayer twice a day; to be good economists; to guard against "little oaths, as upon my life, my faith, my honour;" and against little compliments, or unmeaning words. The members might "tenderly and prudently call each other
1765 Age 62