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Thus the Churchmen felt the same about this indoor preaching as they did about preaching out of doors. It was hurtful to the Church, therefore they would oppose it. Mobs repeatedly attacked houses in which Methodists preached. At Chelsea wild fire was thrown into the house and the smoke was so thick that the preacher could not see the people assembled there.74 Robert Griffeth, of Holyhead, an old man, and the owner of a house in which Methodist meetings took place, was struck down by a stone by a captain living in that place, who wished to break up the service. 76 The opposition to field preaching and irregular indoor preaching was somewhat alike in character and identical from motive.76
SECTION III. THE BEGINNING OF THE ITINERACY
When the Methodists saw how their efforts to preach the gospel outside of the Established Church were welcomed by the poor who came to hear them in large numbers, it was most natural that they should seek, in their earnestness, to extend these efforts as widely as possible over England. This they did by traveling far and wide. This system of travel was called the itineracy. It was organized in no formal manner. Mr. Seward of Bristol requested Wesley to go to Bristol to preach. The people at Fetter Lane, including Charles Wesley, were opposed to John Wesley's going and wrangled much over the point. At length all agreed to settle it by lot; the Bible was opened; Wesley went; the itineracy had begun.77 Soon after this Wesley narrated : “My ordinary employment in public was as follows: Every morning I read prayers and preached at Newgate. Every evening I expound a portion of Scripture at one or more of the societies. On Monday, in the afternoon, I preached abroad near Bristol, on Tuesday, at Bath and TwoMile hill alternately; on Wednesday, at Baptist mills; every other Thursday near Pensford; every other Friday, in another part of Kingswood; on Saturday, in the afternoon, and Sunday
74 Jour., vol. ii, p. 524.
morning, in the Bowling Green. ... on Sunday at eleven near Hanham Mount; at two at Clifton, and at five, at Rose Green."78 With this beginning, the work spread rapidly. Wesley himself went to Ireland forty-two times in his life, and the second largest society was, for a time, in Dublin.79 He toured through the north of England and up into Scotland many times.80 At Kelso, in Scotland, he began his work by singing a psalm in the market place; the chief men came to hear him; but he "spared neither rich nor poor.” He was surprised at himself, for it was not usual for him "to use so keen and cutting expressions."81 And this also may explain why the Methodists did not better impress the doughty Scotchmen with their message. Wesley visited the Scilly Islands and as late as 1788 organized a society there. 82 And when he preached at Taunton, and in the places of Cornwall, his welcome was ever warm.
It is no easy task to seek to give an idea of the extent of this itineracy. Wesley's Journal would give the impression that he preached in a different town every day, and usually in not less than three places each day. A perusal of his compiled itineracy shows that he traveled 250,000 miles and preached 40,000 sermons. Others besides Wesley traveled. William Grimshaw preached as often as thirty times a week, and never less than twelve. 84
The difficulties of travel were very bad. One who knows England knows that roads at this time were beyond description. Entertainment often was equally bad. At Oxwich, Wesley recorded : “After I had stayed a while in the street (for there was no publiic house), a poor woman gave me house room. Having had nothing since breakfast, I was very willing to eat and drink; but she simply told me that she had nothing in the house but a dram of gin. However, I afterwards procured a
78 Jour., vol. ii, p. 198ff.
Ibid., vol. iii, p. 91.
8 W. H. S. Proceedings, vol. vi, pp. 149ff. gives a detailed account of Wesley's itineracy and should be consulted in this connection.
dish of tea from another house and was much refreshed."85 And again: "My lodging is not such as I should have chosen, but what Providence chooses is always good. My bed was considerably under ground, the room serving both for a bed chamber and a cellar. The closeness was more troublesome at first than the coolness, but I let in a little fresh air by breaking a pane of paper (put by way of glass) in the window, and then slept sound till morning.”88
Wesley must have thought that this traveling from place to place paid, or else he would not have put up with so much hardship, or advocated the itineracy so strenuously. When there was no increase in Methodist membership, Wesley easily attributed this to the fact that “one preacher stays two or three months at a time preaching on Sunday mornings and three or four evenings a week. Can a Methodist preacher preserve either bodily health, or spiritual life with this exercise ?"87 Such was the emphasis Wesley put upon the itineracy.
If the clergy objected to field preaching, and irregular indoor preaching, of course they objected to the itineracy, which was essentially organized field preaching and irregular indoor preaching. It was with some justice that the clergy reasoned against the itineracy when they said that traveling Methodist preachers tended to make the people of a community have little esteem for their regular ministers. Ordination was limited for this very purpose; yet this itineracy tried to undo just what the bishops sought to do. Then, too, the Church had plenty of ministers and did not need these itinerants.88 This sounded strangely like the arguments brought against the Dominicans and the Franciscans. Whitefield was accused of breaking the law-if he insisted on preaching, he should have a chance to preach to fellow-prisoners—so the critic facetiously remarked. 89 When the Bishop of Gloucester indicated that he broke the law, Whitefield defended himself and said of this opposition, “I can
* Jour., vol. v, p. 9off.
Ibid., vol. vi, p. 19.
foresee the consequences very well. They have in one sense, already thrust us out of the synagogues. By and by, they will think it is doing God a service to kill us.”90 Wesley faced this opposition which asserted that he broke the Canons saying: “I have no parish of my own. God tells me to preach and teach. Who shall I obey, God or man?” Then he announced to the clergy his slogan, “I look upon the world as my parish.” This showed no compromise.91
Thus was the itineracy established, and so well did it function, that the none too friendly Hampson said, "So long as the itineracy can be preserved, and a frequent change of preachers kept up, so long will Methodism prosper.
SECTION IV. THE USE OF LAY PREACHERS
The clergy considered that the unusual practices of the Methodists in the above described forms were bad enough, and these practices at first were primarily the work of regularly trained clergy-clergymen with the same ecclesiastical standing in the Church as themselves. But in their zeal to save the world, the Methodists were willing to go to even farther extremes. They were willing to use laymen. This irregularity—irregular from the standpoint of a Churchman-nettled the clergy and the Established Church much more than the irregularities committed by the regular clergy. When Wesley used lay preachers, he was not original, for as Leliévre said, “le ministère laïque existait déjà depuis quelques années et avait fait ses preuves.
The reason for introducing lay preachers into the Methodist plan was the practical need of the day. So many people came under Wesley's care that he had to decide whether he should confine his labors to those whom he could visit constantly or within a short space of time, or whether he should obtain other assistance.94 After Whitefield preached one day at Islington, a layman named Bowers stood upon a table and addressed the
crowd. Charles Wesley was so hot at the spectacle that he withdrew. Bowers was arrested at Oxford and rebuked by Charles Wesley; but his brother John saw the opportunity in the affair. 95 Shortly afterward he chose Thomas Maxfield as one of his helpers. Maxfield was Wesley's first lay preacher.
The way now opened; Wesley had many to help him. Thomas Walsh preached in Ireland with great results, came later to England and contracted tuberculosis, thus ending his life. 96 John Bennett was an able person who accompanied Wesley on many of his journeys. 97 John Jones, a physician, also came to preach for Wesley, though later he left the Methodists. 98 These men preached, traveled with Wesley, and assisted him in every way possible.
Great care was taken with the selection of these men. Wesley listened to their preaching and then examined the practical results of their efforts. It was not polity nor doctrine but practical results that counted with Wesley.99 Yet as the work progressed, the men were carefully examined as to their orthodoxy and other abilities.100 By the year 1765, these men were “admitted on trial,” or “admitted in full," and Wesley regularly appointed them to circuits for one year.
It was to be expected that among such men as were selected to be lay preachers, those would be found who were undesirable. Complaints were made against these men. . Wesley on each occasion investigated these complaints. “He found one or two, who did not walk worthy of the Gospel; and several more whom they thought utterly unqualified to preach.”102 Mr. Parker must have been one of these, for he is described as "a more artless preacher I never heard."'103 Conference took up the matter of inefficient lay preachers, and intimated that many were unqualified for the work, having neither grace nor gifts; but the
05 Fitchett: p. 205.
Ibid., vol. iii, pp. 142, 375, note 1.
Moore: Op. cit., vol. i, pp. 414-415.
Minutes, vol. I, p. 46.