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Wesley on Preaching.
field's action was violent; but he is a mere post to Mr. Calliard."
Wesley then proceeded to Mountmellick, Montrath, Roscrea, Birr, Tullamore, Athlone, Aghrim, Ahaskra, Longford, Kenagh, and Tyrrell's Pass. On the 14th of July he got back to Dublin, where he spent the next eight days, and then embarked for England. The day before he sailed, he wrote as follows to his friend, Mr. Ebenezer Blackwell :
"DUBLIN, July 21, 1750.
"DEAR SIR,—I have had so hurrying a time for two or three months, as I scarce ever had before; such a mixture of storms and clear sunshine, of huge applause and huge opposition. Indeed, the Irish, in general, keep no bounds. I think there is not such another nation in Europe, so
'Impetuous in their love and in their hate.'
"That any of the Methodist preachers are alive is a clear proof of an overruling Providence; for we know not where we are safe. A week or two ago, in a time of perfect peace, twenty people assaulted one of our preachers, and a few that were riding with him, near Limerick. He asked their captain what they intended to do, who calmly answered, 'To murder you!' and accordingly presented a pistol, which snapped twice or thrice. Mr. Fenwick then rode away. The other pursued, and fired after him, but could not overtake him. Three of his companions they left for dead. But some neighbouring justice of the peace did not take it well; so they procured the cutthroats to be apprehended; and it is supposed they will be in danger of transportation, though murder is a venial sin in Ireland. "I am, dear sir,
Another letter, likewise written in Dublin, though a little out of chronological order, is too important to be omitted. It was addressed to Joseph Cownley, just after Wesley's arrival in the Irish metropolis, and contains an opinion on preaching, which, in this smooth-tongued age, is well worth pondering. "DUBLIN, April 12, 1750.
"MY DEAR BROTHER,-I doubt you are in a great deal more danger from honour than from dishonour. So it is with me. I always find there is most hazard in sailing upon smooth water. When the winds blow, and the seas rage, even the sleepers will rise and call upon God.
"From Newcastle to London, and from London to Bristol, God is everywhere reviving His work. I find it so now in Dublin, although there has been great imprudence in some, whereby grievous wolves have lately crept in among us, not sparing the flock; by whom some souls have
1 Methodist Magazine, 1848, p. 776.
been utterly destroyed, and others wounded, who are not yet recovered.1 Those who ought to have stood in the gap did not; but I trust they will be wiser for the time to come. After a season, I think it will be highly expedient for you to labour in Ireland again.
"I see a danger you are in, which perhaps you do not see yourself. Is it not most pleasing to me, as well as to you, to be always preaching of the love of God? Without doubt so it is. But yet it would be utterly wrong and unscriptural to preach of nothing else. Let the law always prepare for the gospel. I scarce ever spoke more earnestly here of the love of God in Christ than I did last night; but it was after I had been tearing the unawakened in pieces. Go thou and do likewise. It is true, the love of God in Christ alone feeds His children; but even they are to be guided as well as fed, yea, and often physicked too; and the bulk of our hearers must be purged before they are fed, else we only feed the disease. Beware of all honey. It is the best extreme; but it is an extreme. "I am your affectionate brother, "JOHN WESLEY." 2
Upon the whole, Wesley was well satisfied with the work in Ireland. He writes: "I had the satisfaction of observing how greatly God had blessed my fellow labourers, and how many sinners were saved from the error of their ways. Many of these had been eminent for all manner of sins. Many had been Roman Catholics; and I suppose the number of these would have been far greater, had not the good protestants, as well as the popish priests, taken true pains to hinder them.” 3
Wesley's "fellow labourers," however, gave him trouble as well as joy. Dr. Whitehead has inserted, in his Life of Wesley, the following extracts of letters, written to Edward and Charles Perronet, during the present year. They seem somewhat testy, and, we incline to think, were written in a querulous frame of mind, to which all men are, more or less, liable. We give them as we find them.
"I have abundance of complaints to make, as well as to hear. I have scarce any one on whom I can depend, when I am a hundred miles off. 'Tis well if I do not run away soon, and leave them to cut and shuffle for themselves. Here" [in Ireland] "is a glorious people; but oh! where are the shepherds? The society at Cork have fairly sent me word, that they will take care of themselves, and erect themselves into a Dissenting congregation. I am weary of these sons of Zeruiah: they are too hard for
1 The reference here is doubtless to Roger Ball.
2 Methodist Magazine, 1794, p. 524.
3 Wesley's Works, vol. xiii., p. 316
Charles and you behave as I want you to do; but you cannot, or will not, preach where I desire. Others can and will preach where I desire; but they do not behave as I want them to do. I have a fine time between the one and the other. I think both Charles and you have, in the general, a right sense of what it is to serve as sons in the gospel; and if all our helpers had had the same, the work of God would have prospered better, both in England and Ireland. I have not one preacher with me, and not six in England, whose wills are broken to serve me thus."1
This is a dark picture; but we still think, that, though Wesley's first helpers were far from perfect, his complaint. concerning them is too strongly worded. Biliousness makes even the best men fretful, and it may be fairly supposed that Wesley himself was not free from this.
Wesley's passage from Dublin to Bristol was stormy and dangerous. There was a combination of wind, thunder, rain, and darkness. The sea ran mountains high. The ship had no goods, and little ballast, and rolled most fearfully. He and Christopher Hopper began to pray; the wind was hushed; the sea fell; the clouds dispersed; and, on July 24, they arrived in safety.
Ten days before his arrival, a long and most scandalous letter, of nearly three folio columns, was published in The Bristol Weekly Intelligencer; but was far too scurrilous to be answered. Some parts of it are literally obscene, and must not be quoted. The following are among the most mildly expressed charges. The "gifted itinerants," who "had been bred up as tailors, masons, colliers, tinkers, and sow-gelders," made it their "business to talk about the other world, in order to maintain themselves in this." They were "of a gloomy temper, and rueful countenance," holding the doctrines, that "the Deity is an arbitrary being; that positive institutions are more obligatory than moral duties; and that man is not a free agent, but a mere machine." Their followers were-(1) The most ignorant and credulous, who were "apt to admire everything that was new, surprising, and mysterious"; (2) the old, melancholy, and sick, who were ready to trust any one, that could, with confidence, promise to put them in a way of safety; (3) notorious bad livers, who
1 Whitehead's Life of Wesley, vol. ii., p. 259.
1750 Age 47
made a great noise about religion, hoping to be happy hereafter without being good here; and (4) the female sex, who received the preachers very kindly into their houses, and, for their sakes, neglected and left their husbands and their families. In their preaching, the itinerants "interlarded their miscellaneous thoughts with a whole effusion of Scripture texts, without regard to their just sense or proper application; they roared, raved, thundered, and stunned their congregations, using every variation of voice, and all manner of bodily agitations, and attributed the whole to the powerful operations of the Holy Ghost. Their proper friends were the Jesuits, and they opposed peace and order, and a regular government in church and state. They bred ill opinions about the clergy, by insinuating that they had more regard for their tithes than for their flocks, their pleasures than their prayers; and that they strove more for good livings than for eternal life."
Such are meek specimens of the long letter published in the midst of the Bristol Methodists.
Wesley spent six days at Bristol, during which he preached at Point's Pool, "in the midst of the butchers, and all the He rebel rout that neither fear God nor reverence man." was greatly disheartened at finding the Kingswood family considerably lessened. "I wonder," he writes, "how I am withheld from dropping the whole design; so many difficulties have continually attended it."
On July 30, he set out for Shepton-Mallet, and, for five hours, rode through an incessant rain and a furious wind, till he was "drenched to the very soles of his feet." Next day, he came to Shaftesbury, and preached to a crowded congregation, including "the chief opposers of John Haime; but none stirred, none spoke, none smiled; many were in tears; and many others were filled with joy unspeakable."
He then proceeded, by way of Collumpton, to Tiverton, to him a sacred place as containing the ashes of his brother Samuel. He preached in the market place. One of his hearers was Miss Sampson, a young lady of five and twenty, the daughter of a Baptist minister. She became one of the first members of the Tiverton society; married James Cotty, an itinerant preacher; and died in peace on New Year's day,
Wesley in Cornwall.
1819.1 Tiverton was a place which Wesley often visited, and sometimes (as we shall see hereafter) a place which gave him not the most courteous welcome.
Leaving Tiverton, he went to Cornwall, and found that, throughout the entire county, the societies had "suffered great loss for want of discipline." The largest society was at St. Just, and contained a "greater proportion of believers" than he had found in any other society in the kingdom. It was during this visit of three weeks' continuance, that the first watchnight was held in Cornwall. He preached at least thirty times, held a quarterly meeting at St. Ives, at which were present the stewards of all the Cornish societies; and, besides other books, read what he calls an "odd one," entitled "The General Delusion of Christians with regard to Prophecy"; and was convinced of what he had long suspected: "(1) That the Montanists, in the second and third centuries, were real, scriptural Christians; and (2) that the grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so soon withdrawn, was, not only that faith and holiness were well-nigh lost, but that dry, formal, orthodox men began even to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves; and to deny them all, as either madness or imposture."
In returning, he called again at Tiverton, where the meadow in which he preached "was full from side to side, and many stood in the gardens and orchards round." At Hillfarrance, "three or four boors would have been rude if they durst; but the odds against them was too great." At Bridgewater, he had "a well behaved company." At Shaftesbury, a constable came, and said, "Sir, the mayor discharges you from preaching in this borough any more." Wesley replied, "While King George gives me leave to preach, I shall not ask leave of the mayor of Shaftesbury." At Salisbury, he preached in the chapel which formerly was Westley Hall's, a poor woman endeavouring to interrupt by uttering an inarticulate and dismal yell. Behaviour like this was now, at Salisbury, of common occurrence; the misconduct of
1 Methodist Magazine, 1819, p. 544.
2 Lavington, bishop of Exeter, begins his "Enthusiasm of the Methodists and Papists compared," with a sketch of what he calls "the madness and presumption of the Montanists."