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Charles Wesley

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July 8 - Aug. 13, 1754: Norfolk

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July 8 - August 13, 1754

Mon., July 8th, 1754. At four I took horse for Norwich with my brother, Charles Pertoner, and Robert Windsor. We were in fear for my brother, lest the heat of the journey should be too great for him; but tile rain which God sent down all yesterday had laid the dust, and cooled the air. The clouds also were ordered to attend us all the day; so that we had an easy and pleasant ride to Braintree.

Tues., July 9th. Still God in the weather favoured us, and brought us safe to Bury, and ten miles beyond it.

Wed., July 10th. Our leisurely travelling allowed us many hours for writing. Between seven and eight we set out, and by eleven reached Attleborough. Here our brother Edwards met us with a chaise, which brought us in the evening to Captain Galatin's, at Lakenham, a mile and a half from Norwich.

The Captain brought us news that the whole city was in an uproar about poor Mr. Wheatley, whose works of darkness are now brought to light, whereby the people are so scandalized and exasperated, that they are ready to rise, and tear him to pieces. We do not, therefore, wonder that the Clergy are not forward to show their friendly inclinations towards us. Yet one has sent us a civil message, excusing his not visiting us till the tumult is over.

Thur., July 11th. Captain Galatin dined with the Mayor, a wise, resolute man, who labours for peace, but greatly apprehends the rising of the people. We thought it best to lie by till the storm should a little subside. Still the waves rage horribly. The streets ring all day with James's wickedness. From morning till night (the Captain informs us) the Mayor has been employed in taking the affidavits of the women whom he has tried to corrupt. These accounts are printed, and carried about the city.

What could Satan or his apostles do more to shut the door against the Gospel in this place for ever? Yet several came to us, entreating us to preach; and at night a great number were gathered together to hear us. The advertisement we had printed here last year, disclaiming Mr. Wheatley, did much good, and, with the blessing of God, helped the people to distinguish. Our host, also, has assured the Mayor, Mr. Wheatley is no Methodist, or associate of ours; and the Clergy, as well as people in general, are sensible of our inviolable attachment to the Church.

Fri., July 12th. We continued in our retreat, transcribing the Notes, (John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the New Testament. -Editor.) and leaving God to work, and prepare the way at Norwich.

Wed., July l7th. Yesterday a lady sent my brother an invitation to preach in her great room, at the window, whence he might be heard by those without. But to-day an Alderman, threatening a prosecution, has made her draw back. I walked to Lakenham, and stopped my brother. The rest of the day we spent in transcribing.

Thur., July 18th. Word was brought us that the gentlemen were much displeased at their disappointment last night. At six in the evening we went forth. My text was, "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." The people were amazingly serious. All behaved with the utmost decency. It is evidently the Lord's doing!

Some of the fiercest persecutors are our fastest friends, and constantly attend the word. Many appear affected under it. Not one dares open his mouth against it, as yet.

My brother recapitulated and confirmed my sayings. In the mouth of two witnesses every word was established.

Fri., July 19th. At four-my brother, by the advice of Charles Perronet, set out with him for Bristol. By how strange a providence has he been brought hither, that he might be sent hence to the Hotwells, the only probable means of restoring his health!

I preached at five from Hosea xii. 9: "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help." Still their patience of the truth continues, or even increases. Near a thousand we have every morning. One man, after I had concluded, spoke a rude word, which drew upon him the general indignation.

At night I had multitudes of the great vulgar, as well as the small, to hear me, with three Justices, and nine Clergymen. The Lord opened my mouth to convince them of sin; and many, I am persuaded, felt the sword of the Spirit in the word.

Sat., July 20th. I declared, to a more numerous audience, it being market-day, "Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money." The butchers were continually passing; yet all was quiet till I had done.

I forgot to mention that, on Thursday morning, James Wheatley overtook me and Charles Pertoner in our way to Lakenham. I would hope he intended to pass by us, but Charles looking back, and spying him, forced him to stop, anti speak to us. He asked me how I did; to which I made no answer. Charles cried out, "Ride on, James, ride on; do not talk to us. I pray God, give you repentance." He asked me how my brother did; but still I said nothing. Then, recovering himself, he said, "And God give you repentance, Mr. Perronet." I bade Charles turn back, and leave him; which he did; being grieved at the hardness of his heart. I passed the day at Lakenham, as usual.

Sun., July 21st. My audience at seven was greatly increased. I spoke from the three first verses of Isai. lxi.; but dwelt upon those words, "He hath sent me to preach the glad tidings to the meek," or "poor." I laboured, as all the past week, to bring them to a sense of their wants; and to this end I have preached the law, which is extremely wanted here. They have been surfeited with smooth words and flattering invitations. The greater cause have we of wonder and thanksgiving, that they can now endure sound and severe doctrine.

I received the sacrament again from the Bishop's hands, among a score communicants. If the Gospel prevail in this place, they will find the difference by and by. I went to St. John's, and thence to the street. It rained all the time that I was declaring the office of Christ in his own words, Isai. lxi.; yet none departed. My congregation was lessened by the weather; but those who did attend were serious, and seemed to receive the word as a thirsty land the showers.

Mon., July 22d. The rain hindered my preaching. God is providing us a place, an old large brewhouse, which the owner, a Justice of Peace, has reserved for us. He has refused several; always declaring he would let it to none but Mr. John Wesley. Last Saturday, Mr. Edwards agreed to take a lease for seven years; and this morning Mr. S—n has sent his workmen to begin putting it into repair. The people are much pleased at our taking it. So is not Satan, and his Antinomian apostles.

My brother's prophecy is come true,—that all our caution and tenderness towards them will not hinder their saying all manner of evil of us. The only curse I have had bestowed on me in Norwich, was by a good woman of Mr. Wheatley's Society: several of which are, I doubt not, gracious souls, in whose shame and sorrow I sincerely sympathize. Others show what manner of spirit they are of by tearing their enemies to pieces. They have already found out, that it is I and our little Society of eighteen have set the people against poor Mr. Wheatley; and I am come hither with my brother to execute the design we and Mr. Keymar laid against him in London. I trust our few children will take my counsel, not to answer them a word; not to meddle with their distractions; but to stand still.

Tues., July 23d. At five I declared the end of our Lord's coming, even that they might have life, and have it more abundantly. The seriousness of the people deepens at every discourse. Some called on me to inquire after Mr. C.'s character, concerning which I could say nothing.

I met Mr. S. at the house, which is at present a mere heap of rubbish, without walls, without roof, floor, doors, or windows. What will this chaos produce? I think it no bad omen that it was originally a foundery.

I wrote all day at Mr. Edwards's. I hear the blasphemy of the multitude. Their mouths are full of vile expressions:

"Offence and torture to the sober ear."

Woe unto the man that gives occasion to the enemy to speak reproachfully!

At seven I expounded the barren fig-tree, to a people who, notwithstanding all their stumbling-blocks, can endure sound doctrine.

Wed., July 24th. I preached the Gospel from Isai. xliii. 22, &c. Three from the tabernacle called with an invidious, vain design.

My congregation at night was considerably inereased by the market-folk out of the country. I preached repentance from Rev. i. 7: "Behold, he eometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him," &e. The Lord opened my mouth to convince. His word begins to sink into their hearts. Many were in tears on every side. Toward the close, a huge man tried to ride up to me; but the people interposed again and again, till a serious stout man took and led his horse away, and kept the poor drunkard at a due distance. Some in the public-house behind me were noisy and troublesome, on whom I turned, and recommended them to the prayers of the congregation. Satan often shows his willingness and inability to hurt or hinder us. In spite of all, the Gospel has free course, and gains daily on the hearers' hearts.

Thur., July 25th. The rain drove me into brother Edwards's. Only the sincere and serious attended. Tile poor have a right to the Gospel. I therefore preached Christ crucified to them, from Zech. xii. 10. They did in that hour look on him they had pierced, and mourn; particularly one hardened rebel, (that was,) who was in tears the whole time.

Yesterday a woman came to me to ask my pardon for having railed at me, or rather at Mr. Edwards, while passing her. She belonged to the tabernacle. I commended her ingenuousness, wished all her Society like her, and gave her a book. From this many stories were made. I think it best to have no communication at all with Mr. Wheatley, or any of his followers, neither to mention, neither to think, of him, ally more than if there was no such sinner upon earth.

I passed the day at Lakenham. At seven I preached to a mixed multitude of good and bad. Some of the baser sort talked lewdly and blasphemously, till I turned and set the terrors of the Lord in army against them. No wonder the slaves could not face me. The words directed to them made many a sincere heart tremble. I went on with more power than ever. So immediately did God bring good out of evil. The number of mourners increases. By and by they will be ripe for the Gospel.

Fri., July 26th. I enforced, on many listening souls, our Lord's most important words, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find." I enjoyed my long-sought solitude all day at Lakenham.

Tues., July 30th. I preached at five from Isai. xxxv., and found my mouth opened, as well as the hearers' hearts. The more Satan rages, the more our Lord will own and bless us. A poor rebel, at the conclusion, lifted up his voice; for whom I first prayed, and then, turning full upon him, preached repentance and Christ to his heart. I desired him to turn his face toward me; but he could not. However, he felt the invisible chain, which held him to hear an offer of grace and salvation. I have great hopes that Satan has lost his slave. Some have assured me they saw him depart in tears. I began once more transcribing Dr. Young's Night Thoughts. No writings but the inspired are more useful to me. At St. Peter's I heard a very innocent sermon on public worship. There is no railing at present in any of the churches.

The Bishop of Exeter's letter was cried about the streets all day. We prayed, and went forth at seven, expecting Satan's appearance. A multitude attended to Hosea xiv. 1: "O Israel, return unto the Lord; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words," &c. My heart was much enlarged. A very few showed their willingness to disturb, but were soon suppressed. I did not spare them; and the Lord gave weight to His word. I plainly perceive there is no strength nor counsel against the Lord.

Many persons there doubtless are in this great city, who would fain stop the course of the Gospel, and drive it out. Several complain that their fellows will not suffer them to persecute. To say nothing of the Clergy, can Mr. Taylor's16 followers digest our doctrine of original sin? Can either the Pharisees or Sadducees, with which this place abounds, wish us success? Here are swarms of Papists and Antinomians, who bear us equal good-will. And all Christ's enemies have a sword put into their hands by that wretched man.17 It is Satan's and his interest that the world should look upon us as all alike. And with this view, no doubt, the Rev. Mr.——- published his scandals of my brother. But he may find himself mistaken. It is too gross to pass even at Norwich. The Clergy, I hear, declare they are satisfied of Mr. John Wesley's unexceptionable character; and the generality of the people are much displeased at the nonsensical tale.18

Wed., July 31st. I expounded Isal. xxxii. l, 2, to a quiet, attentive congregation, who constantly attend, about two hundred of whom seem more and more to know their wants.

At night I laid the axe to the root, and showed them their actual and original corruption from Rev. iii. 17: "Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." The strong man was disturbed in his palace, and roared on every side. My strength increased with the opposition. A gentleman on horseback gnashed upon me with his teeth; but my voice prevailed, and they retreated to their strong hold, the alehouse. There with difficulty they procured some butchers to appear in their quarrel; yet they had no commission to approach till I had done. Then in the last hymn they made up to the table with great fury. The foremost often lifted up his stick to strike me, being within his reach; but he was not permitted. I stayed to pray for them, and walked quietly to my lodgings. Poor Rabshakeh muttered something about the Bishop of Exeter, but; did not accept my invitation to Mr. Edwards's.

I am persuaded more good has been done to-night, than by any of my former discourses. The concern and love of the people for me is much increased by my supposed danger.

We joined together in prayer and thanksgiving, as usual, and I slept in peace.

Thur., August 1st. My morning congregation made me ample amends for last night's tumult; they were so serious, and so affected with the word, Matt. xi. 5: "The blind receive their sight," &c.

When I gave notice of preaching in the evening, I did not know what a riotous day it is. Yet after prayer I went forth, to keep my word, and see if the Lord had any work for me. The hill was covered with drunkards and rioters; but we saw the hand of God turning them aside, and keeping them at a distance. My subject was, "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" The congregation looked like sheep in the midst of wolves; but the wolves had a bridle in their mouths, and could not hurt or disturb the serious. Satan must rage; for his kingdom suffers loss. Many followed me home, with whom I spent some time in prayer.

By the time that the streets are too hot to hold us, we hope our house will be ready.

Fri., August 2d. I spoke comfortably to the sincere from Matt. v. 3, &c.: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," &c. A gentleman faced me while I brought all the threatenings of God's word to bear upon him. He often changed colour, in spite of all his diabolical resolution. The poor people were not ashamed to show their concern. They felt the word, if he did not, and were melted down through his obduracy.

I am at a loss for a church, Squire D——- having sent his servant to forbid my preaching any more under his wall. I thought of removing my pulpit to Mr. Edwards's door; but Providence ordered otherwise, by sending such violent rain to-day as flooded the street around us, and filled it up with mud.

It being the fair day, we had a large company of drunkards to wait upon us at seven o'clock. I stood under a window of the Bull. Satan quickly sent me two of his drunken champions, who did all in their power to interrupt me. Their heads were just as high as mine, and one laid his mouth to my ear, and talked almost the whole time, I was forced, in my own defence, to speak as loud and as fast as I could. And they had no power to disturb me, while I applied the most blessed promise, Isai. xxxv. 10: "The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come with songs unto Zion." Many experienced the power of the Gospel, preached with much contention. The wild beasts of tile people were quite tame, while I passed through the midst of them.

Sat., August 3d. I preached Christ the way, and the truth, and the life, with great enlargement, the people assisting me. They seem a people ready prepared of the Lord. He was with us this morning of a truth.

Sun., August 4th. I met the Society at five, with some new members, or rather candidates; for such I esteem them all. I exhorted them to walk unblamable in all the commandments and ordinances. We had sweet fellowship in singing and prayer.

At seven I expounded blind Bartimeus; and the Lord bowed their hearts who heard. We never had so large a morning congregation, or so serious. The answers of prayer come back upon us. Surely God hath much people in this city.

I breakfasted at Mrs. Overton's, on whose ground Mr. Wheatley's first tabernacle was built. She has offered herself as a candidate of Society, having stayed in the other till sin forced her out. They are above measure displeased with her. She regards it not, but follows on to know the Lord.

I communicated at the cathedral. An elderly Clergyman pointed me at the table to where the Ministers were. The number of communicants begins to increase: a sign we do not make a separation, as a zealous advocate for the Church charged me in going home. I set him right, and he was in a good measure appeased.

Poor James has given them cause for suspicion. He too came to the cathedral at first, as my opponent told me, and pretended to bring others, till he had got so much hold of them as to take them all from it, and turn them Dissenters. How has he increased our difficulties! But the power and blessing of God can set all right.

I met the Society again after dinner, and strongly exhorted them to bring forth fruits meet for repentance.

I was in great heaviness till five, and then invited a huge multitude to the great supper, Luke xiv. 16, &c., and gave an historical account of the Methodists. Some thought our congregation larger than any before, and more serious. A few ragged drunkards stood at a distance, but were not suffered to make a noise till I had done. Then they lifted up their voice, which made me begin again. I exhorted, sang, prayed, and exhorted again. It was a glorious opportunity. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory.

Our house was crowded afterwards. For an hour I spoke, sang, prayed after God. A fair prospect we have of a flourishing Society, such as shall not be ashamed to speak with their enemies in the gate. Every soul present, I am persuaded, felt the nearness of our Lord.

Mon., August 5th. That scripture was fulfilled, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me." We knew not how to part: though we never part now without a blessing. Five more gave in their names as candidates for the Society. Two had belonged to it formerly in London and Newcastle. Last night a poor backslider came to me with tears of sincere remorse. He had run well, been a Leader in London, but forsaken the fountain of living water. The Lord has sent after the one lost sheep. I have a hope that he will rise again, to fall no more.

To-day I heard that as soon as I had named my subject yesterday morning, blind Bartimeus, some went away, crying they had heard enough of him from Wheatley. Poor James had attempted that history, and made a lame piece of work, and many others, which straitens me much. I cannot yet preach of my favourite texts, because he has. He has, as much as in him lay, poisoned the fountain, debased the language of God, hardened the people's hearts, palled their spiritual appetite, and made them even loathe religion and all that belongs to it. Their natural prejudices against the truth are increased. What mountains are these in the way to Christ! They can never flow down but at His presence.

I dined at Lakenham, and returned with Mrs. Galatin to Norwich. Mrs. Overton, a sincere follower after Christ, drank tea with us. We had hardly time for a prayer before we went forth. A gentleman had been with me yesterday, desiring me to vindicate him from the aspersion of disturbing me in preaching. For his satisfaction I preached, contrary to my design, on the hill. The rioters were there in great numbers. I called them to repentance; but they stopped their ears, and ran upon me, casting dirt and stones, &e. I stood it for three quarters of an hour; but it was fighting with beasts. None of us were hurt by their violence, but several frightened. The rebels followed me departing. I turned and faced them. They fled when none pursued. The poor women had the worst of it. The lewd sons of Belial are furnished with weapons enough from the tabernacle, and talk as inspired by their father. Our people were a good deal discouraged, fearing it will grow worse and worse. (We have a Butler here also, a ring-leader of the rioters.) I endeavoured to hearten them, and exhorted them to greater diligence in prayer. Prayer is our only refuge; and it' our hands be steady, Israel shall prevail.

Tues., August 6th. I was forced to rise at two by the cramp, and could not sleep afterwards. At five many sincere souls were comforted by the voice of the good Shepherd: "Fear not, little flock: it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

Wed., August 7th. I preached from, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?" &c.

At seven God, in answer to our continual prayer, opened the door in spite of all the powers of darkness. Preaching to this people is indeed threshing the mountains: yet several of them show great hunger for the word.

Thur., August 8th. Our morning hour is always peaceable, and attended with the blessing of the Gospel. The house is filled with the sincere, and the half-awakened listen without.

Mrs. Bridgham called, and warned me of the dear hearers, (as Mr. Wheatley's Society are called,) some of whom she knew intended to come, pretending to condemn him, that they might ensnare me in my words.

I preached a little after six this evening, according to my notice in the morning, and so disappointed most of the rioters. One drunkard was sent to molest us; but the bridle was in his as well as his master's mouth. Many felt the meaning of those awful words, Phil. ii. 9, 10: "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth." We afterwards returned thanks in the house, and earnestly prayed for the course of the Gospel: as we always do, both before and after preaching.

Fri., August 9th. I rose soon after four. At five the Lord was mightily with us, to confirm his word, Matt. i. 2l: "He shall save his people from their sins." Mrs. Br., Mrs. G., with our brother and sister Ed wards, joined me in praise and prayer till near seven: a custom we hope, with God's help, to continue.

At six a tumultuous crowd surrounded me, while I cried aloud, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord," &c. Satan visibly laboured in his children to hinder the Gospel; which yet they could not hinder. A poor harlot shrieked out for the first quarter of an hour incessantly. I could hear no word but Wheatley. I turned toward her, and pressed her to enter the kingdom, with her sister harlots; but she did not care to show her face. We heard no more of her. Her allies stood motionless till I dismissed them.

A huge, black, grisly man followed me into the house, whom I took for a collier. He told me he was a tinker, T. Boult by name, had been in all Mr. Wheatley's riots, and fought for him forty times; that, understanding I should settle here, he came to offer me his service; and would henceforward fight for me. I thanked him for his non-necessary kindness, gave him a word of advice, and a book; and he went away highly satisfied.

I hear it was he that drove away the noisy harlot.

We rejoiced, as usual, in giving God the glory for his overruling providence.

I should not forget, that this morning Mr.—— had the modesty to pay us a visit. Mrs. Edwards opened the door, and, seeing him, without speaking a word, bad or good, shut it again.

Sat., August 10th. The Lord prospered his word preached to many listening souls, from Heb. iv. 14—16.

Sun., August 11th. I walked to Norwich by five, and met the Society, to our mutual comfort. At seven our street was tilled from end to end. I strongly preached God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. He stood by his ambassador, and bowed the hearts of all that heard. We never yet had so open a door. Two or three of the tabernacle mocked at the beginning; but the stream carried them also away before it. This hour and a half has made us amends for our troubles and buffetings. We acknowledged God hearing prayer. Our brethren at London have surely wrestled for us, and prevailed.

We had double the number of communicants at the cathedral. All who are healed by our ministry show themselves to the Priest, and enter into the temple with 1,18.

I wonder we should miss so long so convenient a place for preaching as our own street is. The Foundery shuts us up at one side, and Mr. Edwards's and his neighbours' houses on the other. Above three thousand may conveniently stand about tile door, and twice as many at the end of Hog-hill. Every place was crowded in the evening, while I enforced the faithful and acceptable saying, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. His power beat down all opposition, and cleared his own way into their hearts. All seemed melted down, or broken to pieces, either by the fire or the hammer. The Gospel had FREE COURSE; the word was glorified, and ran very swiftly. Let all who prayed for its success give God praise, and pray on: so shall it mightily prevail over this great wicked city.

Some of the best of the parish, as well as strangers, joined with us for an hour longer in prayer and thanksgiving. I enforced upon them, by particular and close application, both my morning and evening discourse. Such conversation, I find, is more useful than even preaching itself. The Lord was evidently with us in his convincing power.

Mon., August 12th. The house was crowded, both within and without, while I expounder Mark ii. 1, &c., the Lord confirming his word.

Tues., August 13th. I walked to Norwich. Many seem ready to close with Christ, and to come at his call, weary and heavy laden. The more disposed they are to receive the Gospel, the more he opens my mouth to make it known.

At Lakenham I visited with Mrs. Galatin, a poor creature, lately delivered of a bastard child, and now swiftly hastening to eternity. Neither she, nor the woman who received her into her house, can read. We talked much to little purpose. Only she seemed thankful for the pains we took with her, and desirous we should come and pray with her again.

I got a useful hour in the evening for conversation and prayer with our awakening neighbours.


16 Dr. John Taylor, then resident in Norwich, whose treatise on Original Sin was answered By the Rev. John Wesley.

17 James Wheatley.

18 This appears to refer to the idle tale which the Bishop of Exeter published about this time, and which some Rev. gentleman reprinted at Norwich.

Charles Wesley, The Journal of the Rev. Charles Wesley (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1849)

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