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HITEFIELD was now an evangelist at large, the
minister of no church in particular, but a preacher labouring for all. Early in January, he wrote: "I have offered Mr. Wesley to assist occasionally at his chapel. Oh that I may be a freedman, and ready to help all that preach and love the Lord Jesus in sincerity! I am a debtor to the greek and to the barbarian, to the wise and to the unwise; and think it my highest privilege to preach Christ and Him crucified to all."1 Accordingly, on Friday, January 19, Wesley read prayers at West Street chapel, and Whitefield delivered "a plain, affectionate discourse." On the Sunday following, the order was reversed; Whitefield read the prayers, and Wesley preached; after which, they unitedly administered the sacrament to about twelve hundred people.2 On Sunday, the 28th, the liturgy was read by Wesley, and Whitefield preached the sermon. The two friends were now visibly as well as really united. Wesley remarks: "By the blessing of God, one more stumbling block is removed. How wise is God in giving different talents to different preachers! Even Mr. Whitefield's little improprieties, both of language and manner, were a means of profiting many, who would not have been touched by a more correct discourse, or a more calm and regular manner of speaking."
The fraternization was not confined to Whitefield. In the same week, Howel Harris preached in the old Foundery, Wesley observing concerning him—“a powerful orator, both by nature and grace; but owing nothing to art or education." "Thanks be to God," writes the Countess of Huntingdon, "for the unanimity and love which have been displayed on this happy occasion. May the God of peace and harmony unite us all in a bond of affection! In forbearance toward
1 Whitefield's Works, vol. ii., p. 316-18.
2 Ibid. p. 320.
Methodism in Canterbury.
each other, and mutual kindness, may we imitate His blessed disciples, so that all those who take knowledge of us may Age 47 say, 'See how these Christians love one another!'" 1
We purposely refrain from following Whitefield in his wondrous wanderings; but it may be interjected here, that, during the year, when at Rotherham, the town crier was employed to give notice of a bear baiting, it being understood that Whitefield was the bear; and, accordingly, when he began to preach a mob surrounded him, and a row ensued. In Cumberland, his enemies injured his chaise, and cut off the tail of one of his horses. At Ulverstone, a clergyman, looking more like a butcher than a minister, charged a constable to arrest him. But none of these things checked his triumphal march. People, by thousands, flocked to hear him. At a single sacramental service, Grimshaw's church, at Haworth, was thrice filled with communicants. From his leaving London to his reaching Edinburgh, he preached ninety times, to about a hundred and forty thousand people. At Lady Huntingdon's, he seemed to think himself at the gates of paradise. He writes: "October 11. For a day or two, her ladyship has had five clergymen under her roof. Her house is indeed a Bethel. To us in the ministry, it looks like a college. We have the sacrament every morning, heavenly conversation all day, and preach at night. This is to live at court, indeed."
Wesley began the year by preaching, in London, to a large congregation at four o'clock in the morning. At the end of the month, he paid a visit to Canterbury, where a society had been already formed; and, during three days, preached in the butter market, and other places, including an antinomian meeting-house, situated in Godly Alley.
The introduction of Methodism into the city of Canterbury was opposed not only by mobs, but by parsons. Hence the issue of the following furious effusion: "The Impostor Detected: or, the Counterfeit Saint turned inside out. Containing a full discovery of the horrid blasphemies and im
1" Life and Times of Countess of Huntingdon," vol. i., p. 118.
3 Methodist Magazine, 1837, p. 421.
1750 pieties, taught by those diabolical seducers, called Methodists, Age 47 under colour of the only real Christianity. Particularly intended for the use of the city of Canterbury, where that mystery of iniquity has lately begun to work. By John Kirkby, rector of Blackmanstone, in Kent." London: 1750. 8vo, 55 pages.
Meek Mr. Kirkby tells his Canterbury friends, that the Methodists, "spiritual Ephraimites, are the true successors of the pharisees, in hypocrisy and spiritual pride, and nauseously abuse sacred things." Wesley is accused of "matchless impudence and wickedness, and of impious cant. He is a chameleon; uses blasphemous jargon; basely belies Christianity; and nonsense is the smallest of his failings. In him the angel of darkness has made his incarnate appearance; and he and his brother are murderers of sense as well as souls, and just about as fitly cut out for poets as a lame horse would be for a rope dancer." The polite parson continues: "the sacred names of God and Christ are dreadfully blasphemed by the Methodists to serve their wicked purposes. Hypocrisy is their trade, and seeming sanctity their disguise. Wesley and his abettors are not only impious blasphemers of God, but also the most wicked damners of their brethren. Among them religion is impiously mocked; and the senseless effusions of a dissembling hypocrite are interpreted to be the language of the Holy Ghost."
Quantum sufficit. It is time to bid adieu to the Christian rector of Blackmanstone.
Returning to London, Wesley spent Sunday, February 4, with the Rev. Charles Manning, vicar of Hayes, in whose church he preached. He writes: "what a change is here within a year or two! Instead of the parishioners going out of church, the people come now from many miles round. The church was filled in the afternoon likewise; and all behaved well but the singers, whom I therefore reproved before the congregation."
Mr. Manning, for some years, was one of Wesley's most faithful friends. Wesley preached in his church at least fifteen times; and through him also gained access to the churches at Uxbridge and Hillingdon. Mr. Manning attended the sittings of Wesley's conference in 1747; he was the most
Rev. Charles Manning.
noted of the Methodist clergy in Middlesex, and was subjected 1750 to a large amount of petty persecution. Clergymen would Age 47 turn their backs upon him while he was reading prayers or preaching. The singers were most obstreporous. His churchyard was used for fighting cocks. On one occasion, William Blackall came into the church, while the psalm was being sung, with a pipe in his mouth and a pot of beer in his hand, and, seating himself in his pew, behaved with the greatest indecency during the whole of Manning's sermon. On the 5th of November, while he was preaching, a constable and three other fellows took possession of the belfry, rung the bells, and spat upon the heads of the people seated in their pews beneath. Such was the heathenism, in the midst of which Charles Manning laboured. No wonder that Wesley thought even decent behaviour a fact worth mentioning.
On the 8th of February, London was startled, in the midst of its noisy bustle, by the rockings and rumblings of an earthquake. The inhabitants, struck with panic, rushed into the streets, fearing to be buried beneath the ruins of their tottering houses. Exactly a month afterwards, a second shock occurred, more violent and of longer continuance. Ten days later, Gosport, Portsmouth, and the Isle of Wight were shaken. People became frantic with fear. Meanwhile, a crazy soldier took upon himself to prophesy, that, on the 4th of April, there would be another earthquake, which would destroy half of London and Westminster.1 The prophet was sent to Bedlam for his foolhardiness; but thousands were credulous enough to believe the silly prognostication of this mad enthusiast. When the looked for night arrived, Tower Hill, Moorfields, Hyde Park, and other open places, were filled with men, women, and children, who had fled from houses which they expected to become heaps of ruins; and there, filled with direful apprehensions, they spent long hours of darkness, beneath an inclement sky, in momentary expectation of seeing the soldier's oracular utterance fulfilled. Multitudes ran about the streets in frantic consternation, quite certain that the final judgment was about to open; and that, before the dawn of another day, all would hear the blast of the archangel's
1 London Magazine, 1750.
1750 trumpet. Places of worship were packed, especially the Age 47 chapels of the Methodists, where crowds came during the whole of that dreary night, knocking and begging for admittance. At midnight, amid dense darkness, and surrounded by affrighted multitudes, Whitefield stood up in Hyde Park, and, with his characteristic pathos, and in tones majestically grand, took occasion to call the attention of listening multitudes to the coming judgment, the wreck of nature, and the sealing of all men's destinies.
The scene was awful. London was in sackcloth. Women made themselves what Horace Walpole calls "earthquake gowns, that is, warm gowns in which to sit out of doors all night." Within three days, seven hundred and thirty coaches had been counted passing Hyde Park Corner filled with families removing to the country. Sherlock, bishop of London, a fortnight before the expected shock,2 had published a letter, addressed "to the clergy and people of London and Westminster, on occasion of the late earthquakes"; and sixty thousand copies had been already sold to eager purchasers. This 12mo tract of twelve pages was ably written, and was a faithful warning of the just judgments which the people and the nation might expect unless they repented of the enormous sins with which they were now disgraced. "The gospel," says Sherlock, "had been not only rejected, but treated with malicious scorn. The press swarmed with books, some to dispute, and some to ridicule the great truths of religion, both natural and revealed. Blasphemy and horrid imprecations might be heard on every hand. Lewdness and debauchery so prevailed among the lowest classes, as to keep them idle, poor, and miserable. By lewd pictures, sold in the open day, the abominations of the public stews were exposed to view. Histories or romances of the vilest prostitutes were published. Friendly visits for conversation had degenerated into meetings for gambling; and men, who had lost all principles of religion, and were lost to all sense of morality, in time of sickness, when fears of futurity were revived, became an easy prey to
2 London Magazine, 1750, p. 139.