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A remarkable circumstance, which Mr. Wesley related to me, may throw considerable light on those “orders from above.” One of the original Society of Methodists at Oxford, on the departure of its founders from the university, after seeking for others like-minded, at length joined the Society of Quakers, and settled at Kew. Being a man of considerable property, and of exemplary behaviour, he was much respected, and favoured with free permission to walk in the royal gardens. Here he frequently met the King, who conversed freely with him, and with much apparent satisfaction. Upon one of those occasions, his Majesty, knowing that he had been at Oxford, inquired if he knew the Messrs. Wesley, adding, “They make a great noise in the nation.” The gentleman replied, “ I know them well, King George ; and thou mayest be assured, that thou hast not two better men in thy dominions, nor men that love thee better than John and Charles Wesley.” He then proceeded to give some account of their principles and conduct ; with which the King seemed much pleased. When Mr. Wesley had concluded, I said, “We see, Sir, the Lord can bring a tale to the ear of the King.”—He replied, with much feeling, “0, I have always found the blessedness of a single eye,
of leaving all to Him." However, the rioters in the country, particularly in Staffordshire, were not so easily quelled. In the beginning of 1743, Mr. Wesley visited Wednesbury, and preached in the town-hall, morning and evening, and also in the open air. He likewise visited the parts adjacent, and more especially those which were inhabited by colliers. Many appeared to be deeply affected, and about a hundred desired to join together. In two or three months, these were increased to between three and four hundred, and upon the whole enjoyed much peace. But in the Summer following, there was an entire change. Mr. Egginton, the minister of Wednesbury, with several neighbouring Justices of the peace, stirred up the basest of the people ; on which,
such outrages followed as were a scandal to the Christian name. Riotous mobs were summoned together by the sound of a horn; men, women, and children were abused in the most shocking manner; being beaten, stoned, covered with mud: Some, even pregnant women, were treated in a manner that cannot be mentioned. In the mean time, their houses were broken open by any that pleased, and their goods spoiled or carried away ; some of the owners standing by, but not daring to oppose, as it would have been at the peril of their lives. Mr. Wesley's own account of those riots, as far as they related to himself, is so remarkable, that I make no scruple of inserting it at large.
“ Thursday, October 20, 1743.-—After preaching at Birmingham, I rode to Wednesbury. At twelve, I preached in a ground near the middle of the town, to a far larger congregation than was expected, on, · Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. I believe, every one present felt the power of God, and no creature offered to molest us.
“I was writing at Francis Ward's in the afternoon, when the cry arose, that the mob had beset the house.' We prayed, that God would disperse them. And it was so; so that in half an hour, not a man was left. I told our brethren, Now is the time for us to go ;' but they pressed me exceedingly to stay. So, that I might not offend them, I sat down, though I foresaw what would follow. Before five, the mob surrounded the house again, in greater numbers than ever. The cry of one and all was, · Bring out the minister; we will have the minister.' I desired one to take their captain by the hand, and bring him into the house. After a few sentences interchanged between us, the lion was become a larnb. I desired him to go and bring one or two of the most angry of his companions. He brought in two, who were ready to swallow the ground with rage ; but, in two minutes, they were as calm as he. I then bade them make way, that I might go out among the people. As soon as I was in the midst of them, I called for a chair, and, standing up, asked, “What do
want with me?' Some said, “We want you to go with us to the Justice.' I replied, “That I will, with all my heart! I then spoke a few words, which God applied; so that they cried out with might and main, • The gentleman is an honest gentleman, and we will spill our blood in his defence !' I asked, " Shall we go to the Justice to-night, or in the morning ? Most of them cried • To-night! To-night!'. On which, I went before, and two or three hundred followed.
“ The night came, before we had walked a mile, together with heavy rain. However, on we went to Bentley-Hall, two miles from Wednesbury. One or two ran before, to tell Mr. Lane, • They had brought Mr. Wesley before his Worship.'-—Mr. Lane replied, “What have I to do with Mr. Wesley? Go and carry him back again. By this time the main body came up, and began knocking at the door. A servant told them, • Mr. Lane was in bed.'--His son followed, and asked, “What was the matter?--One replied, "Why, an't please you, they sing psalms all day ; nay, and make folks rise at five in the morning. And what would your Worship advise us to do?'_ To go home,' said Mr. Lane, “and be quiet.'
“ Here they were at a full stop, till one advised, • To go to Justice Persehouse, at Walsal.'—All agreed to this. So we hastened on, and about seven came to his house. But Mr. Persehouse likewise sent word, that · He was in bed.'-Now they were at a stand again ; but at last they all thought it the wisest course to make the best of their way home. About fifty of them undertook to convoy me.
But we had not gone a hundred yards, when the mob of Walsal came, pouring in like a food, and bore down all before them. The Darlaston mob made what defence they could ; but they were weary, as well as out-numbered. So that, in a short time, many being knocked down, the rest ran away, and left me in their hands.
“ To attempt speaking was vain ; for the noise on every side was like the roaring of the sea. So they dragged me along till we came to the town; where, seeing the door of a large house open, I attempted to go in; but a man, catching me by the hair, pulled me back into the middle of the moh. They made no more stop, till they had carried me through the main street. I continued speaking all the time to those within hearing, feeling no pain or weariness. At the West-end of the town, seeing a door half open, I made towards it, and would have gone in; but a gentleman in the shop would not suffer me, saying, “ They would pull the house down to the ground.'—However, I stood at the door, and asked, · Are you willing to hear me speak?'— Many cried out, “No, no! Knock his brains out! Down with him! Kill him at once ! Others said, “Nay; but we will hear him first !-I began asking, “What evil have I done? Which of you all have I wronged in word or deed ?' and continued speaking above a quarter of an hour, till my voice suddenly failed. Then the floods began to lift up their voice again; many crying out, · Bring him away! Bring him away!
“In the mean time, my strength and my voice returned, and I broke out aloud into prayer. And now the man who just before headed the mob, turned and said, “Sir, I will spend my life for you. Follow me, and not one soul here shall touch a hair of your head.'—Two or three of his fellows confirmed his words, and got close to me immediately. At the same time, the gentleman in the shop cried out, “For shame! For shame! Let him go !'- An honest butcher, who was a little farther off, said, “ It was a shame they should do thus ;' and pulled back four or five, one after another, who were running on the most fiercely. The people then, as if it had been by common consent, fell back to the right and left; while those three or four men took me between them, and carried me through them all. But, on the bridge, the mob rallied again ; we therefore went on one side, over the mill-dam, and thence through the meadows, till, a little before ten, God brought me safe to Wednesbury; having lost only one flap of my waistcoat, and a little skin from one of
hands. “I never saw such a chain of providences before ; so many convincing proofs, that the hand of God is on every person and thing, overruling as it seemeth him good.
“A poor woman of Darlaston, who had headed that mob, and sworn, that none should touch me,' when she saw her fellows give way, ran into the thickest of the throng, and knocked down three or four men, one after another. But many assaulting her at once, she was soon overpowered, and had probably been killed in a few minutes, (three men keeping her down, and beating her with all their might,) had not a man called out to them, “Hold, Tom, hold !-- Who is there ? said Tom. “What, honest Munchin? Nay then, let her go!-So they held their hands, and let her get up and crawl home as well as she could.
"From the beginning to the end, I found the same presence of mind as if I had been sitting in my study. But I took no thought for one moment before another; only once it came into my mind, that if they should throw me into the river, it would spoil the papers that were in my pocket. For myself, I did not doubt but I should swim across, having but a thin coat, and a light pair of boots.
“ By how gentle degrees does God prepare us for his will! Two. years ago, a piece of a brick grazed my shoulders. It was a year after, that a stone struck me between the eyes. Last month, I received one blow; and this evening, two,--one before we came into the town, and one after we were gone out. But both were as nothing: For, though one man struck me on the breast with all his might, and the other on the mouth with such a force that the blood gushed out immediately, I felt no more pain from either of the blows, than if they had touched me with a straw.
" It ought not to be forgotten, that when the rest of the Society made all haste to escape for their lives, four only would not stir, William Sitch, Edward Slater, John Griffiths, and Joan Parks : These kept with me, resolving to live or die together. And none of them received one blow but William Sitch, who held me by the arm from one end of the town to the other. He was then dragged away and knocked down; but he soon rose and got to me again. I afterwards asked him, .What he expected, when the mob came upon us ?-He said, "To die for Him who had died for us ;' and added, that he felt no hurry or fear, but calmly waited till God should require his soul of him.' “When I came back to Francis Ward's, I found
of our bre, thren waiting upon God. Many also, whom I never had seen before, came to rejoice with us. And the next morning, as I rode through the town on my way to Nottingham, every one I met expressed such a cordial affection, that I could scarce believe what I saw and heard."
About this time, (1744,) a Captain Turner, of Bristol, a member of the Methodist Society, landed at St. Ives in Cornwall
, and was agreeaably surprised to find a few persons who feared God, and constantly met together. They were much refreshed by him, as he was by them. On mentioning this at Bristol, Mr. Charles Wesley went there with two of the preachers, whose labours were blessed to many. Mr. John Wesley soon after visited them and found a considerable Society, many of whom enjoyed peace with God. But both he and his serious hearers were roughly handled by the Rector, the Curate, and the gentry, who set the mob upon them on every occasion. Many of the people were wounded; and the preaching-house at St. Ives was pulled down to the ground.
The persecution Mr. Wesley met with in Falmouth and its neighbourhood, is so remarkable, that I shall give his own description of it; and this, with the account of the persecution at Wednesbury, will afford my readers some idea of the sufferings Mr. Wesley endured in the commencement of his extensive labours.
“ Thursday, July 4.-I rode to Falmouth. About three in the afternoon, I went to see a gentlewoman who had been indisposed. Almost as soon as I sat down, the house was beset on all sides by an innumerable multitude of people. A louder or more confused noise could hardly be at the taking of a city by storm. At first Mrs. B. and her daughter endeavoured to quiet them : But it was labour lost. They might as well have attempted to still the raging of the sea, and were, therefore, soon glad to shift for themselves. The rabble roared with all their throats, · Bring out the Canorum! Where is the Canorum ?' (an unmeaning word which the Cornish rabble then used instead of Methodist.) No answer being given, they quickly forced open the outer door, and filled the passage. Only a wainscot partition was between us, which was not likely to stand long. I immediately took down a large looking-glass which hung against it, supposing the whole side would fall in at once. They began their work with abundance of bitter imprecations. A poor girl who was left in the house was utterly astonished, and cried out, 0 Sir, what must we do??-I said, “We must pray.'Indeed at that time, to all appearance, our lives were not worth an hour's purchase.—She asked, · But, Sir, is it not better for you to hide yourself? To get into the closet ?'-I answered, “No. It is best for me to stand just where I am.' Among those without, were the crews of some privateers, which were lately come into the harbour.
Some of these, being angry at the slowness of the rest, thrust them away, and coming up all together, set their shoulders to the inner door, and cried out, Avast, lads, avast! Away went all the hinges at once, and the door fell back into the room. I stepped forward into the midst of them, and said, · Here I am! Which of you has any thing to say to me? To which of you have I done any wrong? To you? Or you? Or you?' I continued speaking till I came into the middle of the street, and then raising my voice, said, “ Neighbours, countrymen, do you desire to hear me speak? They cried vehemently, · Yes, yes ! he shall speak. He shall. Nobody shall hinder bim. But having nothing to stand on, and no advantage of ground, I could be heard by a few only. However, I spoke without intermission; and, as far as the sound reached, the people were still, till one or two of their captains tur ed about an
swore, Not a man shall touch him.' Mr. Thomas, a clergyman, then came up, and asked, “ Are you not ashamed to use a stranger thus ?' He was soon seconded by two or three gentlemen of the town, and one of the Aldermen ; with whom I walked down the town, speaking all the time, till I came to Mrs. Maddern's house. The gentlemen proposed sending for my horse to the door, and desired me to step in and rest the mean time. But on second thoughts, they judged it not advisable to let me go out among the people again. So they chose to send my horse before me to Penryn, and to send me thither by water; the sea running close by the back door of the house in which we were.
“ I never saw before, no, not at Walsal itself, the hand of God so plainly shown as here. There I had some companions, who were willing to die with me; here, not a friend, but one simple girl, who likewise was hurried
from me in an instant, as soon as ever she came out of Mrs. B.'s house. There I received some blows, lost part of my clothes, and was covered over with dirt. Here, although the hands of perhaps some hundreds of people were lifted up to strike or throw, they were one and all stopped in the midway, so that not a man touched me with one of his fingers. Neither was any thing thrown from first to last, so that I had not even a speck of dirt on my clothes. Who can deny, that God heareth the prayer? Or that he hath all power in heaven and earth ?"
In September, 1744, Mr. Wesley received the following letter from Mr. Henry Millard, one of the preachers in Cornwal, giving some account of their difficulties. • The word of God," says he, “has free course here : It runs and is glorified. But the devil rages horribly. Even at St. Ives, we cannot shut the door of John Nance's house to meet the society, but the mob immediately threatens to break it open. And in other places it is worse. I was going to Crowan on Tuesday, and within a quarter of a mile of the place where I was to preach, some met me, and begged me not to go up, saying, “If you do, there will surely be murder; if there is not already : For many were knocked down before we came away.' By their advice, I turned back to the house where I had left
horse. We had been there but a short time, when many people came in very bloody. But the main cry of the mob
• Where is the preacher ? whom they sought for in every part of the house ; swearing bitterly, 'If we can but knock him on the head, we shall be satisfied.'
" Not finding me, they said, “However, we shall catch him on Sunday at Cambourn.' But it was Mr. Westall's* turn to be there. While he was preaching at Mr. Harris's, a tall man came in and pulled him
* Thomas Westall was a simple, upright inan, whose word the Lord greatly blessed. Mr. Wesley at first thought, as in the case of Thomas Maxfield, to silence hiin. But Mrs. Canning, a pious old lady of Evesham, said, “ Stop him at your peril! He preaches the truth, and the Lord owns him as truly as he does you or your brother."