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A Mob defeated.
On his way to the west of England, Wesley opened the new chapel at Shaftesbury. He says: "August 29, 1766—I preached in the new house, filled within and without, to the no small astonishment, it seemed, of most of the hearers."1
The next day, August 30, he writes: "We rode to Stallbridge, long the seat of war, by a senseless, insolent mob, encouraged by their betters, so called, to outrage their quiet neighbours. For what? Why, they were mad; they were Methodists. So, to bring them to their senses, they would beat their brains out. They broke their windows, leaving not one whole pane of glass, spoiled their goods, and assaulted their persons with dirt, and rotten eggs, and stones, whenever they appeared in the street. But no magistrate, though they applied to several, would show them either mercy or justice. At length they wrote to me. I ordered a lawyer to write to the rioters. He did so; but they set him at nought. We then moved the court of King's Bench. By various artifices they got the trial put off, from one assizes to another, for eighteen months. But it fell so much the heavier on themselves, when they were found guilty; and, from that time, finding there is law for Methodists, they have suffered them to be at peace. I preached near the main street without the least disturbance, to a large and attentive congregation."
At Ashburton, many of Wesley's congregation "behaved with decency; but the rest with such stupid rudeness as he had not seen, for a long time, in any part of England."
At Plymouth, "at the close of his sermon, a large stone was thrown in at one of the windows, and fell at his feet."
At Truro, he says: "I was in hopes, when Mr. Walker died, the enmity in those who were called his people would have died also; but it is not so; they still look upon us as rank heretics, and will have no fellowship with us.'
At Helstone, he "preached to an exceeding large and serious congregation." He writes: "What a surprising change is wrought here, within a few years, where a Methodist
1 As a specimen of Methodist learning and expenditure in early times, the following items are taken from the Shaftesbury society book, extending from September 3, 1762, to July 11, 1821.
"1766. Nov. 2.-Paid for shouling dirt
1767. Dec. 24.-Paid Mr. Mather's Quarteridge 1
· Lo o 6
1766 Age 63
1766 preacher could hardly go through the street without a shower Age 63 of stones!"
Methodism was introduced into Helstone by Mr. Hitchens, one of Wesley's first preachers; and the first class was led by Mrs. Triggs, the daughter of a clergyman, and a woman of superior mind and character.1 Once, while the Helstone Methodists were assembled in their preaching room, one of them unaccountably observed, "We will not hold our meeting here to-night, but at the house of." For a time, the others objected; but, at last, yielded, and went to the house which had been mentioned. Strangely enough, before the adjourned meeting was concluded, a fire broke out, and, in its progress, seized on a large quantity of gunpowder, by the explosion of which the old Methodist meeting room was blown to atoms.2
Another anecdote, relating to Helstone, deserves notice. "I was born," said old Peter Martin, "at Helstone in 1742. My wife is ninety-four years old, and our united ages amount to one hundred and ninety-one years. I have been sexton of Helstone parish sixty-five years. I first heard Mr. Wesley preach in the street, near our market house, seventy-four years ago. I had an adventure with him while I was ostler at the London Inn. One day, he came, and obtained my master's leave for me to drive him to St. Ives. On arriving at Hayle, we found the sands, between that place and St. Ives, overflown by the rising tide. Mr. Wesley was resolved to go on; for he said he had to preach at St. Ives at a certain hour, and must be there. Looking out of the carriage window, he called, 'Take the sea! take the sea!' In a moment, I dashed into the waves, and was quickly involved in a world of waters. The horses were swimming, and the wheels of the carriage not unfrequently sunk into deep hollows in the sands. I expected every moment to be drowned, but heard Mr. Wesley's voice, and saw his long white hair dripping with salt water. 'What is your name, driver?' he calmly asked. I answered, 'Peter.' 'Peter,' said he, 'Peter, fear not; thou shalt not sink.' With vigorous whipping I again urged on the flagging horses,
1 Christian Miscellany, 1854, p. 51.
2 Methodist Magazine, 1820, p. 542.
Methodism at Northampton.
and at last got safely over. Mr. Wesley's first care was to see me comfortably lodged at the tavern; and then, totally unmindful of himself, and drenched as he was with the dashing waves, he proceeded to the chapel, and preached according to his appointment."1
Having spent a fortnight among the Cornish Methodists, everywhere preaching to large and attentive congregations, Wesley returned, on September 23, to Bristol. Here, and at Bath, and in the surrounding country, he employed the next four weeks; and, on October 25, came to London, and wrote: "How pleasing would it be to play between London and Bristol, and preach always to such congregations as these! But what account then should I give of my stewardship when I can be no longer steward"?"
In the autumn of this year, he received two letters from Captain Scott, who was stationed with his regiment at Northampton. Here Mr. Blackwell and Mr. Glasbrook had been preaching, the regimental riding house serving as the place of meeting. Large crowds flocked to hear, and numbers were converted. Captain Scott urged Wesley to send an additional preacher to the Bedford circuit, who might take Northampton and the surrounding villages. "The Lord," says he, "has opened you a door in Northampton at last, and will perhaps condescend to make us, unworthy creatures, instruments of assisting you. I therefore wish you were well established there before we leave. As persons of all ranks go to hear, I hope you will send a preacher that will be acceptable to them; for the work, being in its infancy, might be injured, if one was sent they did not like." Wesley was not the man to neglect an opening like this; and, accordingly, on November 10, set out. On his way, however, he found that James Glasbrook had made arrangements for his preaching every day in Bedfordshire, and, hence, he was obliged to send Richard Blackwell to Northampton to supply his place. In this way, principally by means of soldiers, Methodism was planted in this important town, and here, as elsewhere, began to fulfil its mission.
1 Memoirs of Trewavas, p. 174. Methodist Magazine, 1783, pp. 387, 441.
1766 Age 63
1766 With the exception of his usual Kentish tour, the rest of Age 63 the year was spent in London. Here he preached on family. religion, which he calls "the grand desideratum among the Methodists." He also delivered one or more discourses, as he had previously done in Bristol, on the education of children, "wherein," says he, "we are shamefully wanting." Some of the Bristol people answered, by saying, "Oh, he has no children of his own!" But the London Methodists were convinced of their defects. He also commenced a course of sermons on Christian perfection, "if haply," says he, "that thirst after it might return, which was so general a few years ago. Since that time, how deeply have we grieved the Holy Spirit of God! Yet two or three have lately received His pure love; and a few more are brought to the birth."
Every one must be struck with Wesley's almost unequalled labours,―labours prosecuted, not for honour, inasmuch as, for the present, at all events, they only brought him contempt and ridicule; nor for fortune, inasmuch as he took nothing from the people among whom he laboured, except, occasionally when his purse was empty, a few pence or shillings to pay his turnpike gates or his ostler's bill. Indeed, money, like all his other talents, he devoted entirely to the work of God. He sometimes had it; but he never kept it. “Hundreds and thousands," says Thomas Olivers, "are for ever draining Mr. Wesley's pocket to the last shilling, as those about him are eye witnesses."
A remarkable instance of this occurred in the year 1766. Two years before, when at Durham, he met with Miss Lewen, a young lady of about two-and-twenty, with a yearly income of £600, at her own disposal. Some months previously, she had found peace with God, and had joined the Methodists. A friendship sprung up. Her father treated Wesley with the utmost civility, and said, he had done his daughter more good than all the physicians had; and wished her to go to London, where she might have the benefit of his advice, and also communion with his people. She went, and made her abode with Miss Bosanquet, Sarah Crosby, and Sarah Ryan,
1 Olivers' "Rod for a Reviler."
at their orphanage at Leytonstone. Her health was exceedingly infirm, suffering as she did from a heart disease. In October, 1766, after a few days' illness, she expired; some of her last words being, "Oh now I know I shall be with Christ for ever! Yes, I shall be with Thee, O Lord, for ever! Oh for ever! for ever! for ever! Yes! I shall be with Thee for ever!" Wesley went to visit her, but found her dead; and, after describing her last moments, writes: "So died Margaret Lewen! a pattern to all young women of fortune in England: a real Bible Christian."
Wesley's serious accident, by the falling of his horse in Southwark, at the end of 1765, has been already mentioned. A few months after, Miss Lewen gave him a chaise and a pair of horses, which, as occasion required, he began to use. She also left him a legacy of £1000, and "a sum of money," says Lloyd's Evening Post, "to build a chapel, under his direction." The latter statement is a doubtful one; but it is a fact that, in a codicil, she bequeathed to Miss Bosanquet's orphanage £2000, and wished to make it ten or twelve; but Miss Bosanquet prevailed upon her to let her take the codicil and burn it. Considerable unpleasantness ensued; but, on August 11, 1767, Wesley writes: "I came to a friendly conclusion with Mr. Lewen. He agreed to pay the legacies on the 2nd of November, and we relinquished the residue of the estate. So the harpy lawyers are happily disappointed, and the design of the dying saint, in some measure, answered."
By Miss Lewen's will Wesley became the owner of £1000, probably the largest sum that he ever had in his possession. The money, however, was soon gone. In reference to it, Wesley says: "I am God's steward for the poor;" and among the poor it was speedily distributed. His own sister, Mrs. Hall, deserted by her worthless husband, applied for a portion, but applied too late. Hence the following characteristic letter, written within two years after Miss Lewen's death.
1 Mrs. Fletcher's Life, p. 54.
2 Wesley's Works, vol. xii., p. 122.
3 Mrs. Fletcher's Life, p. 53.
4 Wesley's Works, vol. xii., p. 288.