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HE following is Wesley's first entry in his Journal for 1766. "January 1.-A large congregation met in the Foundery at four o'clock, and ushered in the new year with the voice of praise and thanksgiving. In the evening we met as usual in Spitalfields to renew our covenant with God. This is always a refreshing season, at which some prisoners are set at liberty."
Wesley was still suffering from the fall of his horse, and, to some extent, was crippled; but, on January 13, he set out on his accustomed Norfolk visit.
On reaching Yarmouth, he wrote: "The word of God was increasing here, when poor Benjamin Worship was converted to Calvinism. Immediately, he declared open war, tore the society in pieces, took all he could to himself, wholly quitted the Church, and raised such a scandal as will not soon be removed." This was an early rupture. It was hardly six years ago since Howel Harris had come to Yarmouth, with his regiment of volunteers, and, in martial costume, begun to preach the gospel of the Prince of Peace. Among others then converted was this selfsame Benjamin Worship, a young solicitor, who became classleader and local preacher; and now tore the infant society in pieces, organised a society of his own, obtained a small chapel in one of the rows, preached for about two years, and then had the mortification to see the whole collapse. John Simpson, a draper, took Worship's place among the few forsaken Methodists; but, strangely enough, he also turned Calvinist, took possession of the meeting-house, and so divided the small society that only eight poor members were left remaining; and, before the year 1780, Methodism in Yarmouth was utterly defunct. Shortly after, a new society was formed; and, in 1783, a chapel was built, and was opened by Wesley, who says: "Often this poor society has been wellnigh shattered in-pieces: first by Benjamin Worship, then a furious Calvinist, tearing away near half of them; next by
1766 Age 63
1766 John Simpson, turning antinomian, and scattering most that were left. It has pleased God, contrary to all human probability, to raise a new society out of the rest; nay, and to give them courage to build a new preaching house, which is well finished, and contains about five hundred persons."
Wesley returned to London on January 24, and, finding the London society £610 in debt, three meetings were held, at which more than the whole was readily subscribed. The number of members had been reduced from 2800 to 2200. "Such," says Wesley, "is the fruit of George Bell's enthusiasm, and Thomas Maxfield's gratitude."
Whitefield was now in London, his health greatly enfeebled, often well-nigh breathless, but still struggling to preach three or four times a week.1 Wesley writes: "January 31-Mr. Whitefield called upon me. He breathes nothing but peace and love. Bigotry cannot stand before him, but hides its head wherever he comes."
From this period, there was a closer union between Whitefield and Wesley than there had been for the last quarter of a century. They had occasionally exchanged letters; and, sometimes, preached in each other's pulpits; but there had been no hearty cooperation. Wesley's plan of union among the evangelical clergymen of the Church of England had failed; he now entered into an alliance with Whitefield and the Countess of Huntingdon. In the month of October, 1765, her ladyship's chapel at Bath had been opened by Whitefield, who had been succeeded by Messrs. Madan, Romaine, and Fletcher. About the same time, Charles Wesley named his third daughter Selina, as a mark of respect to the countess; and, on August 21, 1766, wrote: "This morning I and my brother spent two blessed hours with George Whitefield. The threefold cord, we trust, will never more be broken. On Tuesday next, my brother is to preach in Lady Huntingdon's chapel at Bath. That and all her chapels are now put into the hands of us three." 3
This was an important meeting. Wesley had just held his
1 Whitefield's Works, vol. iii., pp. 335, 336.
2 Methodist Magazine, 1846, p. 43.
3 C. Wesley's Journal, vol. ii., p. 247.
A quadruple Alliance.
conference at Leeds, and had started on his usual autumnal tour, when he received, from Lady Huntingdon, a letter requesting him to come at once to London. Accordingly, he writes: "August 18-I turned off from the road I had designed to take, and on the 20th reached London. It was at the earnest request of whose heart God has turned again, without any expectation of mine, that I came hither so suddenly; and if no other good result from it but our firm union with Mr. Whitefield, it is an abundant recompence for my labour. My brother and I conferred with him every day; and let the honourable men do what they please, we resolved, by the grace of God, to go on, hand in hand, through honour and dishonour."
Wesley went direct, from this conference in London, to preach in her ladyship's chapel in Bath. This was a remarkable event. Up to the present, the chapels of the Countess of Huntingdon had been almost as hermetically closed against him as the churches of the Church of England. Now, for a little season, it began to be otherwise. Wesley says: "1766, August 26—Many were not a little surprised at seeing me in the Countess of Huntingdon's chapel, at Bath. The congregation was not only large, but serious; and I fully delivered my own soul. So I am in no concern, whether I preach there again, or no. I have no choice concerning it." Notwithstanding his avowed indifference, Wesley wrote to her ladyship, offering to preach in her chapel weekly during his intended stay in Bristol; and, in answer, she addressed to him the following important letter.
“September 14, 1766.
"MY DEAR SIR,-I am most highly obliged by your kind offer of serving the chapel at Bath during your stay at Bristol: I mean on Sundays. It is an important time, being the height of the season, when the great of this world are only within reach of the sound of the gospel from that quarter. The mornings are their time; the evenings, the inhabitants' chiefly."
Her ladyship then proceeds to speak of the new alliance with Whitefield and herself.
"I do trust, that this union, which is commenced, will be for the furtherance of our faith, and mutual love to each other. It is for the interest of the best of causes, that we should all be found, first faithful to the Lord,
and then to each other. I find something wanting, and that is, a meeting now and then agreed upon, that you, your brother, Mr. Whitefield, and I should, at regular times, be glad to communicate our observations upon the general state of the work. Light might follow, and would be a kind of guide to me, as I am connected with many.
"Pray, when you have leisure, let me hear from you, and believe me most faithfully your affectionate friend,
Such was the proposed quadruple alliance, between the three great evangelists of the age and a noble Christian lady, who, had she been a man, would have aspired to be a bishop. The alliance, as will be seen hereafter, was not of long duration; but that probably was owing, not to the unfaithfulness of any of the four, but rather to Whitefield's death, and the envious cabals of the Calvinistic clergy, by whom the countess was surrounded, and some of whom, as Southey says, "abounded as much with bigotry and intolerance as with zeal."
Wesley fulfilled his promise, and, during the month of October, preached several times in the chapel of the countess at Bath; and, on one occasion, administered the sacrament of the Lord's supper. At this period, the chapel was attended by not a few of the nobility: as Lord Camden, then lord chancellor of England, Lord Northington, Earl Chatham and family, Lord Rockingham, Lady Malpas, Lord and Lady Powys, Lord and Lady Buchan, the Duke of Bedford and family, Dr. Barnard, bishop of Londonderry, and last, but not least, Horace Walpole, who, in a letter to John Chute, Esq., dated "Bath, October 10, 1766," gives the following lively, if not strictly accurate, description of what he saw and heard.
"I have been at one opera- Mr. Wesley's. They have boys and girls, with charming voices, that sing hymns in parts to Scotch ballad tunes ; but, indeed, so long, that one would think they were already in eternity, and knew not how much time they had before them. The chapel is very neat, with true gothic windows. I was glad to see that luxury is creeping in upon them before persecution." [Here follows a description of the chapel.] "Wesley is a clean, elderly man, fresh coloured, his hair smoothly combed, but with a little soupcon of curl at the ends. Wondrous clever, but as evidently an actor as Garrick. He spoke his sermon,
Methodist Magazine, 1797, p. 304.
Methodism in Bath.
but so fast, and with so little accent, that I am sure he has often uttered it, for it was like a lesson. There were parts and eloquence in it;
but, towards the end, he exalted his voice, and acted very ugly enthusi- Age 63
asm, decried learning, and told stories, like Latimer, of the fool of his college, who said, 'I thanks God for everything.' Except a few from curiosity, and some honourable women, the congregation was very mean." i
Considering the many years during which Wesley had been accustomed to preach at Bath, it may seem strange to some, that he should now be preaching, not in his own chapel, but in another's. The truth is, though so much time and labour had been bestowed on Bath, by himself, his brother, and their preachers, the results were exceeding small. They had a preaching place in Avon Street; but it was small, and surrounded by a population not the most respectable. They had a society; but it was dwindling instead of growing. In 1757, the members were fifty-five in number; in 1762, they were thirty-one; in 1767, they were twelve. In a letter to Miss Bishop, in the last mentioned year, Wesley says: "We have had a society in Bath for about thirty years; sometimes larger and sometimes smaller. It was very small this autumn, consisting of only eleven or twelve persons, of whom Michael Hemmings was leader. I spoke to these one by one, added nine or ten more, divided them into two classes, and appointed half of them to meet with Joseph Harris." 2
But leaving the quadruple alliance already mentioned, we must return to Wesley's gospel wanderings.
On the 10th of March, he set out, from London, on his long journey to the north. Coming, as usual, to Bristol, he wrote: "I rode to Kingswood, and having told my whole mind to the masters and servants, spoke to the children in a far stronger manner than ever I did before. I will kill or cure. I will have one or the other: a Christian school, or none at all."
From Bristol, Wesley made his way to Stroud and Cheltenham. The latter town, like Bath, was a place of fashion and of pleasure, and, therefore, not a friendly soil for Method
Walpole's Letters, vol. v., p. 16.
2 Methodist Magazine, 1825, p. 653.