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John Wesley

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1740-2: Preaching Incidents; Wesley's Labor Colony; Dispute with Whitefield

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Chapter 4. Preaching Incidents; Wesley's Labor Colony; Dispute with Whitefield; Curious Interruptions; The Mother of the Wesleys

Wesley's Correspondents


Thursday, January 3.—I left London and the next evening came to Oxford, where I spent the two following days in looking over the letters which I had received for the sixteen or eighteen years last past. How few traces of inward religion are here! I found but one among all my correspondents who declared (what I well remember, at that time I knew not how to understand), that God had "shed abroad his love in his heart" and had given him the "peace that passeth all understanding." But who believed his report? Should I conceal a sad truth or declare it for the profit of others? He was expelled out of his society as a madman; and, being disowned by his friends and despised and forsaken of all men, lived obscure and unknown for a few months, and then went to Him whom his soul loved.

Monday, 21.—I preached at Hannam, four miles from Bristol. In the evening I made a collection in our congregation for the relief of the poor, without Lawford's gate; who, having no work (because of the severe frost) and no assistance from the parish wherein they lived, were reduced to the last extremity. I made another collection on Thursday and a third on Sunday, by which we were enabled to feed a hundred, sometimes a hundred and fifty, a day, of those whom we found to need it most.

A Sermon and a Riot

Tuesday, April 1 (Bristol).—While I was expounding the former part of the twenty-third chapter of the Acts (how wonderfully suited to the occasion! though not by my choice), the floods began to lift up their voice. some or other of the children on Belial had labored to disturb us several nights before: but now it seemed as if all the host of the aliens had come together with one consent. Not only the court and the alleys, but all the street, upwards and downwards, was filled with people, shouting, cursing and swearing, and ready to swallow the ground with fierceness and rage. The mayor sent order that they should disperse. But they set him at nought. The chief constable came next in person, who was, till then, sufficiently prejudiced against us. But they insulted him also in so gross a manner as I believe fully opened his eyes. At length the mayor sent several of his officers who took the ringleaders into custody and did not go till all the rest were dispersed. Surely he hath been to us "the minister of God for good."

Wednesday, 2.—The rioters were brought up to the court, the quarter sessions being held that day. They began to excuse themselves by saying many things of me. But the mayor cut them all short, saying, "What Mr. Wesley is, is nothing to you. I will keep the peace; I will have no rioting in this city."

Calling at Newgate in the afternoon, I was informed that the poor wretches under sentence of death were earnestly desirous to speak with me; but that it could not be, Alderman Beecher having just then sent an express order that they should not. I cite Alderman Beecher to answer for these souls at the judgment seat of Christ.

Sunday, September 14 (London).—As I returned home in the evening, I had no sooner stepped out of the coach than the mob, who were gathered in great numbers about my door, quite closed me in. I rejoiced and blessed God, knowing this was the time I had long been looking for, and immediately spake to those that were next me of "righteousness, and judgment to come." At first not many heard, the noise round about us being exceedingly great. But the silence spread farther and farther till I had a quiet, attentive congregation; and when I left them, they all showed much love and dismissed me with many blessings.

Preaching Incidents

Sunday, 28.—I began expounding the Sermon on the Mount, at London. In the afternoon I described to a numerous congregation at Kennington, the life of God in the soul. One person who stood on the mount made a little noise at first; but a gentleman, whom I knew not, walked up to him, and, without saying one word, mildly took him by the hand and led him down. From that time he was quiet till he went away.

When I came home I found an innumerable mob round the door who opened all their throats the moment they saw me. I desired my friends to go into the house; and then walking into the midst of the people, proclaimed, "the name of the Lord, gracious and merciful, and repenting him of the evil." They stood staring one at another. I told them they could not flee from the face of this great God and therefore besought them that we might all join together in crying to Him for mercy. To this they readily agreed: I then commended them to His grace and went undisturbed to the little company within.

Tuesday, 30.—As I was expounding the twelfth of the Acts, a young man, with some others, rushed in, cursing and swearing vehemently; he so disturbed all near him that, after a time, they put him out. I observed it and called to let him come in, that our Lord might bid his chains fall off. As soon as the sermon was over, he came and declared before us all that he was a smuggler, then going on that work, as his disguise, and the great bag he had with him, showed. But he said he must never do this more, for he was now resolved to have the Lord for his God.

Wesley's Labor Colony

Tuesday, November 25 (London).—After several methods proposed for employing those who were out of business, we determined to make a trial of one which several of our brethren recommended to us. Our aim was, with as little expense as possible, to keep them at once from want and from idleness, in order to which,2 we took twelve of the poorest and a teacher into the society room where they were employed for four months, till spring came on, in carding and spinning of cotton. And the design answered: they were employed and maintained with very little more than the produce of their own labor.

Friday, 28.—A gentleman came to me full of good-will, to exhort me not to leave the Church; or (which was the same thing in his account) to use extemporary prayer, which, said he, "I will prove to a demonstration to be no prayer at all. For you cannot do two things at once. But thinking how to pray and praying are two things. Ergo, you cannot both think and pray at once." Now, may it not be proved by the self-same3 demonstration that praying by a form is no prayer at all? E.g. You cannot do two things at once. But reading and praying are two things. Ergo, you cannot both read and pray at once." Q.E.D.

Dispute with Whitefield


Sunday, February 1.—A private letter, written to me by Mr. Whitefield, was printed without either his leave or mine, and a great numbers of copies were given to our people, both at the door and in the Foundry itself. Having procured one of them, I related (after preaching) the naked fact to the congregation and told them, "I will do just what I believe Mr. Whitefield would, were he here himself." Upon which I tore it in pieces before them all. Everyone who had received it, did the same. So that in two minutes there was not a whole copy left.

Saturday, March 28.—Having heard much of Mr. Whitefield's unkind behavior, since his return from Georgia, I went to him to hear him speak for himself that I might know how to judge. I much approved of his plainness of speech. He told me that he and I preached two different gospels; and therefore he not only would not join with or give me the right hand of fellowship, but was resolved publicly to preach against me and my brother, wheresoever he preached at all. Mr. Hall (who went with me) put him in mind of the promise he had made but a few days before, that, whatever his private opinion was, he would never publicly preach against us. He said that promise was only an effect of human weakness, and he was now of another mind.

Monday, April 6.—I had a long conversation with Peter Bohler. I marvel how I refrain from joining these men. I scarcely ever see any of them but my heart burns within me. I long to be with them, and yet I am kept from them.

Thursday, May 7.—I reminded the United Society that many of our brethren and sisters had not needful food; many were destitute of convenient clothing; many were out of business, and that without their own fault; and many sick and ready to perish: that I had done what in me lay to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to employ the poor, and to visit the sick; but was not, alone, sufficient for these things; and therefore desired all whose hearts were as my heart:

  1. To bring what clothes each could spare to be distributed among those that wanted most.
  2. To give weekly a penny, or what they could afford, for the relief of the poor and sick.

My design, I told them, is to employ for the present all the women who are out of business, and desire it, in knitting.

To these we will first give the common price for what work they do; and then add, according as they need.

Twelve persons are appointed to inspect these and to visit and provide things needful for the sick.

Each of these is to visit all the sick within her district every other day and to meet on Tuesday evening, to give an account of what she has done and consult what can be done further.

Friday, 8.—I found myself much out of order. However, I made shift to preach in the evening; but on Saturday my bodily strength quite failed so that for several hours I could scarcely lift up my head. Sunday, 10. I was obliged to lie down most part of the day, being easy only in that posture. Yet in the evening my weakness was suspended while I was calling sinners to repentance. But at our love-feast which followed, beside the pain in my back and head and the fever which still continued upon me, just as I began to pray I was seized with such a cough that I could hardly speak. At the same time came strongly into my mind, "These signs shall follow them that believe" [Mark 16:17]. I called on Jesus aloud to "increase my faith" and to "confirm the word of his grace." While I was speaking my pain vanished away; the fever left me; my bodily strength returned; and for many weeks I felt neither weakness nor pain. "Unto thee, O Lord, do I give thanks."

Wesley at Northampton and Nottingham

Monday, June 8.—I set out from Enfield Chace for Leicestershire. In the evening we came to Northampton, and the next afternoon to Mr. Ellis's at Markfield, five or six miles beyond Leicester.

For these two days I had made an experiment which I had been so often and earnestly pressed to do—speaking to none concerning the things of God unless my heart was free to it. And what was the event? Why, 1.) that I spoke to none at all for fourscore miles together; no, not even to him that traveled with me in the chaise, unless a few words at first setting out; 2.) that I had no cross either to bear or to take up, and commonly, in an hour or two, fell fast asleep; 3.) that I had much respect shown me wherever I came, everyone behaving to me as to a civil, good-natured gentleman. Oh, how pleasing is all this to flesh and blood! Need ye "compass sea and land" to make "proselytes" to this?

Sunday, 14.—I rode to Nottingham and at eight preached at the market place, to an immense multitude of people on "The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" [John 5:25]. I saw only one or two who behaved lightly, whom I immediately spoke to; and they stood reproved. Yet, soon after, a man behind me began aloud to contradict and blaspheme; but upon my turning to him, he stepped behind a pillar and in a few minutes disappeared.

In the afternoon we returned to Markfield. The church was so excessively hot (being crowded in every corner), that I could not, without difficulty, read the evening service. Being afterward informed that abundance of people were still without who could not possibly get into the church, I went out to them and explained that great promise of our Lord, "I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely" [Hos. 14:4]. In the evening I expounded in the church on her who "loved much, because she had much forgiven."

Monday, 15.—I set out for London, and read over in the way that celebrated book, Martin Luther's comment on the Epistle to the Galatians. I was utterly ashamed. How have I esteemed this book, only because I heard it so commended by others; or, at best, because I had read some excellent sentences occasionally quoted from it! But what shall I say, now I judge for myself? now I see with my own eyes? Why, not only that the author makes nothing out, clears up not one considerable difficulty; that he is quite shallow in his remarks on many passages, and muddy and confused almost on all; but that he is deeply tinctured with mysticism throughout and hence often dangerously wrong.

An Ox in the Congregation

Friday, July 10.—I rode to London and preached at Short's Gardens on "the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth" [Acts 3:6]. Sunday, 12. While I was showing, at Charles' Square, what it is "to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God" [see Micah 6:8], a great shout began. Many of the rabble had brought an ox, which they were vehemently laboring to drive among the people. But their labor was in vain; for in spite of them all, he ran round and round, one way and the other, and at length broke through the midst of them clear away, leaving us calmly rejoicing and praising God.

Saturday, 25 (Oxford).—It being my turn (which comes about once in three years), I preached at St. Mary's, before the University. The harvest truly is plenteous. So numerous a congregation (from whatever motives they came) I have seldom seen at Oxford. My text was the confession of poor Agrippa, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian" [Acts 26:28]. I have "cast my bread upon the waters." Let me "find it again after many days!" [Eccles. 11:1].

Wednesday, August 26 (London).—I was informed of a remarkable conversation at which one of our sisters was present a day or two before: a gentleman was assuring his friends that he himself was in Charles4 Square when a person told Mr. Wesley to his face that he, Mr. Wesley, had paid twenty pounds already on being convicted for selling Geneva; and that he now kept two popish priests in his house. This gave occasion to another to mention what he had himself heard, at an eminent Dissenting teacher's, namely, that it was beyond dispute Mr. Wesley had large remittances from Spain in order to make a party among the poor; and that as soon as the Spaniards landed, he was to join them with twenty thousand men.

Wesley at Cardiff

Thursday, October 1.—We set out for Wales; but missing our passage over the Severn in the morning, it was sunset before we could get to Newport. We inquired there if we could hire a guide to Cardiff; but there was none to be had. A lad coming in quickly after, who was going (he said) to Lanissan, a little village two miles to the right of Cardiff, we resolved to go thither. At seven we set out: it rained pretty fast, and there being neither moon nor stars, we could neither see any road, nor one another, nor our own horses' heads; but the promise of God did not fail; He gave His angels charge over us. Soon after ten we came safe to Mr. William's house at Lanissan.

Friday, 2.—We rode to Fonmon castle. We found Mr. Jones's daughter ill of the smallpox; but he could cheerfully leave her and all the rest in the hands of Him in whom he now believed. In the evening I preached at Cardiff in the shire-hall, a large and convenient place, on "God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his son" [I John 5:11]. There having been a feast in the town that day, I believed it needful to add a few words upon intemperance: and while I was saying, "As for you, drunkards, you have no part in this life; you abide in death; you choose death and hell," a man cried out vehemently, "I am one; and thither I am going." But I trust God at that hour began to show him and others "a more excellent way."

Sunday, November 22 (Bristol).—Being not suffered to go to church as yet [after a serious fever], I communicated at home. I was advised to stay at home some time longer, but I could not apprehend it necessary. Therefore, on Monday, 23, went to the new room, where we praised God for all His mercies. And I expounded, for about an hour (without any faintness or weariness), on "What reward shall I give upon the Lord for all the benefits that he hath done unto me? I will receive the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord" [see Ps. 116:12, 13].

I preached once every day this week and found no inconvenience by it. Sunday, 29. I thought I might go a little farther. So I preached both at Kingswood and at Bristol and afterward spent nearly an hour with the society, and about two hours at the love feast. But my body could not yet keep pace with my mind. I had another fit of my fever the next day; but it lasted not long, and I continued slowly to regain my strength.

A Curious Interruption

Monday, December 7.—I preached on "Trust ye in the Lord Jehovah; for in the Lord is everlasting strength" [Isa. 26:4]. I was showing what cause we had to trust in the Captain of our salvation, when one in the midst of the room cried out, "Who was your captain the other day, when you hanged yourself? I know the man who saw you when you were cut down." This wise story, it seems, had been diligently spread abroad and cordially believed by many in Bristol. I desired they would make room for the man to come nearer. But the moment he saw the way open, he ran away with all possible speed, not so much as once looking behind him.

Saturday, 12.—In the evening one desired to speak with me. I perceived him to be in the utmost confusion so that for awhile he could not speak. At length, he said, "I am he that interrupted you at the new room, on Monday. I have had no rest since, day or night, nor could have till I had spoken to you. I hope you will forgive me and that it will be a warning to me all the days of my life."

Wesley's Congregation Stoned


Monday, January 25 (London).—While I was explaining at Long Lane, "He that committeth sin is of the devil" [I John 3:8], his servants were above measure enraged: they not only made all possible noise (although, as I had desired before, no man stirred from his place or answered them a word); but violently thrust many persons to and fro, struck others, and broke down part of the house. At length they began throwing large stones upon the house, which, forcing their way wherever they came, fell down, together with the tiles, among the people, so that they were in danger of their lives. I then told them, "You must not go on thus; I am ordered by the magistrate, who is, in this respect, to us the minister of God, to inform him of those who break the laws of God and the King: and I must do it if you persist herein; otherwise I am a partaker of your sin."

When I ceased speaking they were more outrageous than before. Upon this I said, "Let three or four calm men take hold of the foremost and charge a constable with him, that the law may take its course." They did so and brought him into the house, cursing and blaspheming in a dreadful manner. I desired five or six to go with him to Justice Copeland, to whom they nakedly related the fact. The justice immediately bound him over to the next sessions at Guildford.

I observed when the man was brought into the house that many of his companions were loudly crying out, "Richard Smith, Richard Smith!" who, as it afterwards appeared, was one of their stoutest champions. But Richard Smith answered not; he was fallen into the hands of One higher than they. God had struck him to the heart; as also a woman, who was speaking words not fit to be repeated and throwing whatever came to hand, whom He overtook in the very act. She came into the house with Richard Smith, fell upon her knees before us all, and strongly exhorted him never to turn back, never to forget the mercy which God had shown to his soul. From this time we had never any considerable interruption or disturbance at Long Lane; although we withdrew our persecution upon the offender's submission and promise of better behavior.

Tuesday, 26.—I explained at Chelsea the faith which worketh by love. I was very weak when I went into the room; but the more "the beasts of the people" increased in madness and rage, the more was I strengthened, both in body and soul; so that I believe few in the house, which was exceedingly full, lost one sentence of what I spoke. Indeed they could not see me, nor one another at a few yards distance, by reason of the exceedingly thick smoke, which was occasioned by the wildfire, and things of that kind, continually thrown into the room. But they who could praise God in the midst of the fires were not to be affrighted by a little smoke.

Monday, February 15.—Many met together to consult on a proper method for discharging the public debt; it was at length agreed 1) that every member of the society, who was able, should contribute a penny a week; 2) that the whole society should be divided into little companies or classes—about twelve in each class; and 3) that one person in each class should receive the contribution of the rest and bring it in to the stewards weekly.

Friday, March 10.—I rode once more to Pensford at the earnest request of serious people. The place where they desired me to preach was a little green spot near the town. But I had no sooner begun than a great company of rabble, hired (as we afterwards found) for that purpose, came furiously upon us, bringing a bull, which they had been baiting, and now strove to drive in among the people. But the beast was wiser than his drivers and continually ran either on one side of us or the other, while we quietly sang praise to God and prayed for about an hour. The poor wretches, finding themselves disappointed, at length seized upon the bull, now weak and tired after having been so long torn and beaten both by dogs and men; and, by main strength, partly dragged, and partly thrust, him in among the people.

A Bull in the Congregation

When they had forced their way to the little table on which I stood, they strove several times to throw it down by thrusting the helpless beast against it, who, of himself, stirred no more than a log of wood. I once or twice put aside his head with my hand that the blood might not drop upon my clothes; intending to go on as soon as the hurry should be over. But the table falling down, some of our friends caught me in their arms, and carried me right away on their shoulders; while the rabble wreaked their vengeance on the table, which they tore bit from bit. We went a little way off, where I finished my discourse without any noise or interruption.

Sunday, 21.—In the evening I rode to Marshfield and on Tuesday, in the afternoon, came to London. Wednesday, 24. I preached for the last time in the French chapel at Waping on "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed" [John 8:31].

Thursday, 25.—I appointed several earnest and sensible men to meet me, to whom I showed the great difficulty I had long found of knowing the people who desired to be under my care. After much discourse, they all agreed there could be no better way to come to a sure, thorough knowledge of each person than to divide them into classes, like those at Bristol, under the inspection of those in whom I could most confide. This was the origin of our classes at London, for which I can never sufficiently praise God; the unspeakable usefulness of the institution having ever since been more and more manifest.

Friday, April 9.—We had the first watch night in London. We commonly choose for this solemn service the Friday night nearest the full moon, either before or after, that those of the congregation who live at a distance may have light to their several homes. The service begins at half an hour past eight and continues till a little after midnight. We have often found a peculiar blessing at these seasons. There is generally a deep awe upon the congregation, perhaps in some measure owing to the silence of the night, particularly in singing the hymn with which we commonly conclude:

Hearken to the solemn voice,
The awful midnight cry!
Waiting souls, rejoice, rejoice,
And feel the Bridegroom nigh.

Sunday, May 9.—I preached in Charles Square to the largest congregation I have ever seen there. Many of the baser people would fain have interrupted, but they found, after a time, it was lost labor. One, who was more serious, was (as she afterwards confessed) exceedingly angry at them. But she was quickly rebuked by a stone which lit upon her forehead and struck her down to the ground. In that moment her anger was at an end, and love only filled her heart.

Wednesday, 12.—I waited on the Archbishop of Canterbury with Mr. Whitefield, and again on Friday; as also on the Bishop of London. I trust if we should be called to appear before princes, we should not be ashamed.

Wesley Was "the Better Mounted"

Monday, 17.—I had designed this morning to set out for Bristol but was unexpectedly prevented. In the afternoon I received a letter from Leicestershire, pressing me to come without delay and pay the last office of friendship to one whose soul was on the wing for eternity. On Thursday, 20, I set out. The next afternoon I stopped a little at Newport-Pagnell and then rode on till I overtook a serious man, with whom I immediately fell into conversation.

He presently gave me to know what his opinions were: therefore I said nothing to contradict them. But that did not content him: he was quite uneasy to know whether I held the doctrine of the decrees as he did; but I told him over and over, "We had better keep to practical things, lest we should be angry at one another." And so we did for two miles, till he caught me unawares, and dragged me into the dispute before I knew where I was. He then grew warmer and warmer; told me I was rotten at heart and supposed I was one of John Wesley's followers. I told him, "No, I am John Wesley himself." Upon which he would gladly have run away outright. But being the better mounted of the two, I kept close to his side and endeavored to show him his heart, till we came into the street of Northampton.

A Big Crowd at Newcastle

Observing the people, when I had done, gaping and staring upon me with the most profound astonishment, I told them, "If you desire to know who I am, my name is John Wesley. At five in the evening, with God's help, I design to preach here again."

At five, the hill on which I designed to preach was covered from the top to the bottom. I never saw so large a number of people together, either at Moorfields or at Kennington Common. I knew it was not possible for the one half to hear, although my voice was then strong and clear; and I stood so as to have them all in view, as they were ranged on the side of the hill. The Word of God which I set before them was, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely" [Hos. 14:4]. After preaching, the poor people were ready to tread me under foot, out of pure love and kindness. It was some time before I could possibly get out of the press. I then went back another way than I had come; several got to our inn before me, by whom I was vehemently importuned to stay with them at least a few days; or, however, one day more. But I could not consent, having given my word to be at Birstal, with God's leave, on Tuesday night.

Wesley on His Father's Tombstone

Saturday, June 5.—It being many years since I had been in Epworth before, I went to an inn in the middle of the town, not knowing whether there were any left in it now who would not be ashamed of my acquaintance. But an old servant of my father's, with two or three poor women, presently found me out. I asked her, "Do you know any in Epworth who are in earnest to be saved?" She answered, "I am, by the grace of God; and I know I am saved through faith." I asked, "Have you then the peace of God? Do you know that He has forgiven your sins?" She replied, " I thank God I know it well. And many here can say the same thing."

Sunday, 6.—A little before the service began, I went to Mr. Romley, the curate, and offered to assist him either by preaching or reading prayers. But he did not care to accept of my assistance. The church was exceedingly full in the afternoon, a rumor being spread that I was to preach. But the sermon on "Quench not the Spirit" [I Thess. 5:19] was not suitable to the expectation of many of the hearers. Mr. Romley told them one of the most dangerous ways of quenching the Spirit was by enthusiasm; and enlarged on the character of an enthusiast in a very florid and oratorical manner. After sermon John Taylor stood in the churchyard and gave notice as the people were coming out, "Mr. Wesley, not being permitted to preach in the church, designs to preach here at six o'clock."

Accordingly at six I came and found such a congregation as I believe Epworth never saw before. I stood near the east end of the church, upon my father's tombstone, and cried, "The kingdom of heaven is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" [Rom. 14:17].

"Let Them Convert the Scolds"

Wednesday, 9.—I rode over to a neighboring town to wait upon a justice of peace, a man of candor and understanding; before whom (I was informed) their angry neighbors had carried a whole wagonload of these new heretics. But when he asked what they had done, there was a deep silence; for that was a point their conductors had forgotten. At length one said, "Why they pretended to be better than other people; and besides, they prayed from morning to night." Mr. S. asked, "But have they done nothing besides?" "Yes, sir," said an old man, "an't5 please your worship, they have convarted6 my wife. Till she went among them, she had such a tongue! And now she is as quiet as a lamb." "Carry them back, carry them back," replied the justice, "and let them convert all the scolds in the town."

Saturday, 12.—I preached on the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of faith. While I was speaking, several dropped down as dead and among the rest such a cry was heard of sinners groaning for the righteousness of faith as almost drowned my voice. But many of these soon lifted up their heads with joy and broke out into thanksgiving, being assured they now had the desire of their soul—the forgiveness of their sins.

I observed a gentleman there who was remarkable for not pretending to be of any religion at all. I was informed he had not been at public worship of any kind for upwards of thirty years. Seeing him stand as motionless as a statue, I asked him abruptly, "Sir, are you a sinner?" He replied, with a deep and broken voice, "Sinner enough"; and he continued staring upward till his wife and a servant or two, who were all in tears, put him into his chaise and carried him home.

Sunday, 13.—At seven I preached at Haxey on "What must I do to be saved?" Thence I went to Wroote, of which (as well as Epworth) my father was rector for several years. Mr. Whitelamb offering me the church, I preached in the morning on "Ask, and it shall be given you"; in the afternoon, on the difference between the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of faith. But the church could not contain the people, many of whom came from far and, I trust, not in vain.

At six I preached for the last time in Epworth churchyard (planning to leave the town the next morning) to a vast multitude gathered together from all parts, on the beginning of our Lord's Sermon on the Mount. I continued among them for nearly three hours, and yet we scarcely knew how to part. Oh, let none think his labor of love is lost because the fruit does not immediately appear! Nearly forty years did my father labor here, but he saw little fruit of all his labor. I took some pains among this people too, and my strength also seemed spent in vain; but now the fruit appeared. There were scarcely any in the town on whom either my father or I had taken any pains formerly but the seed, sown so long since, now sprang up, bringing forth repentance and remission of sins.

Death of Wesley's Mother

I left Bristol in the evening of Sunday, July 18, and on Tuesday came to London. I found my mother on the borders of eternity. But she had no doubt or fear nor any desire but (as soon as God should call) "to depart and be with Christ."

Friday, 23.—About three in the afternoon I went to my mother and found her change was near. I sat down on the bedside. She was in her last conflict, unable to speak but I believe quite sensible. Her look was calm and serene, and her eyes fixed upward while we commended her soul to God. From three to four the silver cord was loosing, and the wheel breaking at the cistern; and then without any struggle, or sign, or groan, the soul was set at liberty. We stood round the bed and fulfilled her last request, uttered a little before she lost her speech: "Children, as soon as I am released, sing a psalm of praise to God."

Sunday, August 1.—almost an innumerable company of people being gathered together, about five in the afternoon, I committed to the earth the body of my mother, to sleep with her fathers. The portion of Scripture from which I afterward spoke was: "I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" [Rev. 20:11, 12]. It was one of the most solemn assemblies I ever saw or expect to see on this side eternity.

We set up a plain stone at the head of her grave, inscribed with the following words:

Here lies the Body



the youngest and last surviving daughter of

dr. samuel annesley.

In sure and steadfast hope to rise,
And claim her mansion in the skies,
A Christian here her flesh laid down,
The cross exchanging for a crown.

True daughter of affliction, she,
Inured to pain and misery,
Mourn'd a long night of griefs and fears,
A legal night of seventy years.

The Father then reveal'd His Son,
Him in the broken bread made known;
She knew and felt her sins forgiven,
And found the earnest of her heaven.

Meet for the fellowship above,
She heard the call, "Arise, my love!'
"I come," her dying looks replied,
And lamblike, as her Lord, she died.

Mrs. Wesley as Preacher

I cannot but further observe that even she (as well as her father, and grandfather, her husband, and her three sons) had been, in her measure and degree, a preacher of righteousness. This I learned from a letter, written long since to my father, part of which I have here subjoined:

February 6, 1711-12

——As I am a woman, so I am also mistress of a large family. and though the superior charge of the souls contained in it lies upon you; yet, in your absence, I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my care as a talent committed to me under a trust by the great Lord of all the families both of heaven and earth. And if I am unfaithful to Him or you in neglecting to improve these talents, how shall I answer unto Him, when He shall command me to render an account of my stewardship?

As these, and other such like thoughts, made me at first take a more than ordinary care of the souls of my children and servants, so—knowing our religion requires a strict observation of the Lord's day, and not thinking that we fully answered the end of the institution by going to church unless we filled up the intermediate spaces of time by other acts of piety and devotion—I thought it my duty to spend some part of the day in reading to and instructing my family: and such time I esteemed spent in a way more acceptable to God than if I had retired to my own private devotions.

This was the beginning of my present practice. Other people's coming and joining with us was merely accidental. Our lad told his parents: they first desired to be admitted; then others that heard of it begged leave also: so our company increased to about thirty, and it seldom exceeded forty last winter.

But soon after you went to London last, I lit on the account of the Danish missionaries. I was, I think, never more affected with anything; I could not forbear spending good part of that evening in praising and adoring the divine goodness for inspiring them with such ardent zeal for His glory. For several days I could think or speak of little else. At last it came into my mind, Though I am not a man nor a minister, yet if my heart were sincerely devoted to God and I was inspired with a true zeal for his glory, I might do somewhat more than I do. I thought I might pray more for them and might speak to those with whom I converse with more warmth of affection. I resolved to begin with my own children; in which I observe the following method: I take such a proportion of time as I can spare every night to discourse with each child apart. On Monday, I talk with Molly; on Tuesday, with Hetty; Wednesday, with Nancy; Thursday, with Jacky; Friday, with Patty; Saturday, with Charles; and with Emily and Suky together on Sunday.

She Speaks to Two Hundred

With those few neighbors that then came to me, I discoursed more freely and affectionately. I chose the best and most awakening sermons we have. And I spent somewhat more time with them in such exercises, without being careful about the success of my undertaking. Since this, our company increased every night; for I dare deny none that ask admittance.

Last Sunday I believe we had above two hundred. And yet many went away for want of room to stand.

We banish all temporal concerns from our society. None is suffered to mingle any discourse about them with our reading or singing. We keep close to the business of the day; and when it is over, all go home.

I cannot conceive, why any should reflect upon you because your wife endeavors to draw people to church and to restrain them from profaning the Lord's day by reading to them, and other persuasions. For my part, I value no censure upon this account. I have long since shaken hands with the world. And I heartily wish I had never given them more reason to speak against me.

As to its looking particular, I grant it does. And so does almost anything that is serious, or that may any way advance the glory of God or the salvation of souls.

As for your proposal of letting some other person read: alas! you do not consider what a people these are. I do not think one man among them could read a sermon, without spelling a good part of it. Nor has any of our family a voice strong enough to be heard by such a number of people.

But there is one thing about which I am much dissatisfied; that is, their being present at family prayers. I do not speak of any concern I am under, barely because so many are present; for those who have the honor of speaking to the Great and Holy God need not be ashamed to speak before the whole world; but because of my sex. I doubt if it is proper for me to present the prayers of the people to God. Last Sunday I would fain have dismissed them before prayers; but they begged so earnestly to stay, I durst not deny them.

How the Wesleys Were Brought up

For the benefit of those who are entrusted, as she was, with the care of a numerous family, I cannot but add one letter more, which I received many years ago:

July 24, 1732

To the Rev. Mr. Wesley,

In St. Margaret's Churchyard, Westminster.

Dear Son,

According to your desire, I have collected the principal rules I observed in educating my family; which I now send you as they occurred to my mind, and you may (if you think they can be of use to any) dispose of them in what order you please.

The children were always put into a regular method of living, in such things as they were capable of, from their birth; as in dressing, undressing, changing their linen, and so on. The first quarter commonly passes in sleep. After that, they were, if possible laid into their cradles awake and rocked to sleep; and so they were kept rocking till it was time for them to awake. This was done to bring them to a regular course of sleeping, which at first was three hours in the morning and three in the afternoon; afterward two hours, till they needed none at all.

When turned a year old (and some before), they were taught to fear the rod and to cry softly; by which means they escaped abundance of correction they might otherwise have had; and that most odious noise of the crying of children was rarely heard in the house, but the family usually lived in as much quietness as if there had not been a child among them.

As soon as they were grown pretty strong, they were confined to three meals a day. At dinner their little table and chairs were set by ours, where they could be observed; and they were suffered to eat and drink as much as they would but not to call for anything. If they wanted aught, they used to whisper to the maid which attended them, who came and spoke to me; and as soon as they could handle a knife and fork, they were set to our table. They were never suffered to choose their meat, but always made to eat such things as were provided for the family.

Mornings they had always spoon-meat; sometimes at nights. But whatever they had, they were never permitted to eat, at those meals, of more than one thing; and of that sparingly enough. Drinking or eating between meals was never allowed, unless in case of sickness, which seldom happened. Nor were they suffered to go into the kitchen to ask anything of the servants, when they were at meat: if it was known they did, they were certainly beaten, and the servants severely reprimanded.

At six, as soon as family prayers were over, they had their supper; at seven, the maid washed them; and, beginning at the youngest, she undressed and got them all to bed by eight, at which time she left them in their several rooms awake; for there was no such thing allowed of in our house as sitting by a child till it fell asleep.

They were so constantly used to eat and drink what was given them that when any of them was ill there was no difficulty in making them take the most unpleasant medicine: for they durst not refuse it, though some of them would presently throw it up. This I mention to show that a person may be taught to take anything, though it be never so much against his stomach.

"Conquer the Child's Will"

In order to form the minds of children, the first thing to be done is to conquer their will and bring them to an obedient temper. To inform the understanding is a work of time and must with children proceed by slow degrees as they are able to bear it: but the subjecting the will is a thing which must be done at once; and the sooner the better. For by neglecting timely correction, they will contract a stubbornness and obstinacy which is hardly ever after conquered; and never, without using such severity as would be as painful to me as to the child. In the esteem of the world they pass for kind and indulgent, whom I call cruel, parents, who permit their children to get habits which they know must be afterward broken. Nay, some are so stupidly fond as in sport to teach their children to do things which, in a while after, they have severely beaten them for doing.

Whenever a child is corrected, it must be conquered; and this will be nor hard matter to do if it be not grown headstrong by too much indulgence. And when the will of a child is totally subdued and it is brought to revere and stand in awe of the parents, then a great many childish follies and inadvertences may be passed by. Some should be overlooked and taken no notice of, and others mildly reproved; but no willful transgression ought ever to be forgiven children without chastisement, less or more, as the nature and circumstances of the offense require.

I insist upon conquering the will of children betimes, because this is the only strong and rational foundation of a religious education; without which both precept and example will be ineffectual. But when this is thoroughly done, then a child is capable of being governed by the reason and piety of its parents, till its own understanding comes to maturity and the principles of religion have taken root in the mind.

I cannot yet dismiss this subject. As self-will is the root of all sin and misery, so whatever cherishes this in children insures their after-wretchedness and irreligion; whatever checks and mortifies it promotes their future happiness and piety. This is still more evident if we further consider that religion is nothing else than the doing the will of God and not our own: that the one grand impediment to our temporal and eternal happiness being this self-will, no indulgencies of it can be trivial, no denial unprofitable. Heaven or hell depends on this alone. So that the parent who studies to subdue it in his child works together with God in the renewing and saving a soul. The parent who indulges it does the devil's work, makes religion impracticable, salvation unattainable; and does all that in him lies to damn his child, soul and body forever.

They Had Nothing They Cried For

The children of this family were taught, as soon as they could speak, the Lord's Prayer, which they were made to say at rising and bedtime constantly; to which, as they grew bigger, were added a short prayer for their parents and some collects; a short catechism and some portion of Scripture, as their memories could bear.

They were very early made to distinguish the Sabbath from other days, before they could well speak or go. They were as soon taught to be still at family prayers and to ask a blessing immediately after, which they used to do by signs, before they could kneel or speak.

They were quickly made to understand they might have nothing they cried for and instructed to speak handsomely for what they wanted. They were not suffered to ask even the lowest servant for aught without saying, Pray give me such a thing'; and the servant was chid7 if she ever let them omit that word. Taking God's name in vain, cursing and swearing, profaneness, obscenity, rude, ill-bred names were never heard among them. Nor were they ever permitted to call each other by their proper names without the addition of brother or sister.

None of them were taught to read till five years old, except Kezzy, in whose case I was overruled; and she was more years learning than any of the rest had been months. The way of teaching was this: The day before a child began to learn, the house was set in order, everyone's work appointed them, and a charge given that none should come into the room from nine till twelve, or from two till five; which, you know, were our school hours. One day was allowed the child wherein to learn its letters; and each of them did in that time know all its letters, great and small, except Molly and Nancy, who were a day and a half before they knew them perfectly; for which I then thought them very dull; but since I have observed how long many children are learning the hornbook, I have changed my opinion.

But the reason why I thought them so then was because the rest learned so readily; and your brother Samuel, who was the first child I ever taught, learned the alphabet in a few hours. He was five years old on February 10; the next day he began to learn, and as soon as he knew the letters, began at the first chapter of Genesis. He was taught to spell the first verse, then to read it over and over, till he could read it offhand without any hesitation, so on to the second, and so on, till he took ten verses for a lesson, which he quickly did. Easter fell low that year, and by Whitsuntide he could read a chapter very well; for he read continually and had such a prodigious memory that I cannot remember ever to have told him the same word twice.

Keeping the Wesley Children in Order

What was yet stranger, any word he had learned in his lesson he knew wherever he saw it, either in his Bible or any other book; by which means he learned very soon to read an English author well.

The same method was observed with them all. As soon as they knew the letters, they were put first to spell, and read one line, then a verse; never leaving till perfect in their lesson, were it shorter or longer. So one or other continued reading at schooltime, without any intermission; and before we left school, each child read what he had learned that morning; and ere we parted in the afternoon, what they had learned that day.

There was no such thing as loud talking or playing allowed of; but everyone was kept close to his business for the six hours of school: and it is almost incredible what a child may be taught in a quarter of a year by a vigorous application, if it have but a tolerable capacity and good health. Every one of these, Kezzy excepted, could read better in that time than the most of women can do as long as they live.

Rising out of their places or going out of the room was not permitted, unless for good cause; and running into the yard, garden, or street without leave was always esteemed a capital offense.

For some years we went on very well. Never were children in better order. Never were children better disposed to piety or in more subjection to their parents till that fatal dispersion of them, after the fire, into several families. In those days they were left at full liberty to converse with servants, which before they had always been restrained from; and to run abroad and play with any children, good or bad. They soon learned to neglect a strict observation of the Sabbath and got knowledge of several songs and bad things, which before they had no notion of. The civil behavior which made them admired when at home by all which saw them, was, in great measure, lost; and a clownish accent and many rude ways were learned which were not reformed without some difficulty.

When the house was rebuilt, and the children all brought home, we entered upon a strict reform; and then was begun the custom of singing Psalms at beginning and leaving school, morning and evening. Then also that of a general retirement at five o'clock was entered upon; when the oldest took the youngest that could speak, and the second the next, to whom they read the Psalms for the day and a chapter in the New Testament; as, in the morning, they were directed to read the Psalms and a chapter in the Old: after which they went to their private prayers, before they got their breakfast, or came into the family. And, I thank God, the custom is still preserved among us.

Susanna Wesley's "By-laws"

There were several by-laws observed among us, which slipped my memory, or else they had been inserted in their proper place; but I mention them here because I think them useful.

  1. It had been observed that cowardice and fear of punishment often led children into lying till they get a custom of it which they cannot leave. To prevent this, a law was made that whoever was charged with a fault of which they were guilty, if they would ingenuously confess it and promise to amend, should not be beaten. This rule prevented a great deal of lying and would have done more if one in the family would have observed it. But he could not be prevailed on and therefore was often imposed on by false colors and equivocations; which none would have used (except one), had they been kindly dealt with. And some, in spite of all, would always speak truth plainly.
  2. That no sinful action, as lying, pilfering, playing at church, or on the Lord's day, disobedience, quarreling, and so forth, should ever pass unpunished.
  3. That no child should ever be chid or beaten twice for the same fault; and that if they amended, they should never be upbraided with it afterwards.
  4. That ever signal act of obedience, especially when it crossed upon their own inclinations, should be always commended and frequently rewarded according to the merits of the cause.
  5. That if ever any child performed an act of obedience or did anything with an intention to please, though the performance was not well, yet the obedience and intention should be kindly accepted; and the child with sweetness directed how to do better for the future.
  6. That propriety be inviolably preserved and none suffered to invade the property of another in the smallest matter, though it were but of the value of a farthing or a pin; which they might not take from the owner without, much less against, his consent. This rule can never be too much inculcated on the minds of children; and from the want of parents or governors doing it as they ought proceeds that shameful neglect of justice which we may observe in the world.
  7. That promises be strictly observed; and a gift once bestowed, and so the right passed away from the donor, be not resumed but left to the disposal of him to whom it was given; unless it were conditional and the condition of the obligation not performed.
  8. That no girl be taught to work till she can read very well; and then that she be kept to her work with the same application, and for the same time, that she was held to in reading. This rule also is much to be observed; for the putting children to learn sewing before they can read perfectly is the very reason why so few women can read fit to be heard and never to be well understood.

Wednesday, December 1 (Newcastle).—We had several places offered on which to build a room for the society; but none was such as we wanted. And perhaps there was a providence in our not finding any as yet; for by this means I was kept at Newcastle, whether I would or no.

Saturday, 4.—I was both surprised and grieved at a genuine instance of enthusiasm. J— B—, of Tunfield Leigh, who had received a sense of the love of God a few days before, came riding through the town, hallooing and shouting and driving all the people before him; telling them God had told him he should be a king and should tread all his enemies under his feet. I sent him home immediately to his work and advised him to cry day and night to God that he might be lowly in heart, lest Satan should again get an advantage over him.

Mr. Stephenson and Wesley

Today a gentleman called and offered me a piece of ground. On Monday an article was drawn wherein he agreed to put me into possession on Thursday, upon payment of thirty pounds.

Tuesday, 7.—I was so ill in the morning that I was obliged to send Mr. Williams to the room. He afterward went to Mr. Stephenson, a merchant in the town, who had a passage through the ground we intended to buy. I was willing to purchase it. Mr. Stephenson told him, "Sir, I do not want money; but if Mr. Wesley wants ground, he may have a piece of my garden, adjoining to the place you mention. I am at a word. For forty pounds he shall have sixteen yards in breadth, and thirty in length.

Wednesday, 8.—Mr. Stephenson and I signed an article, and I took possession of the ground. But I could not fairly go back from my agreement with Mr. Riddel: so I entered on his ground at the same time. The whole is about forty yards in length; in the middle of which we determined to build the house, leaving room for a small courtyard before, and a little garden behind, the building.

Monday, 13.—I removed into a lodging adjoining to the ground where we were preparing to build; but the violent frost obliged us to delay the work. I never felt so intense cold before. In a room where a constant fire was kept, though my desk was fixed within a yard of the chimney, I could not write for a quarter of an hour together without my hands being quite benumbed.

Newcastle's First Methodist Room

Monday, 20.—We laid the first stone of the house. Many were gathered from all parts to see it; but none scoffed or interrupted while we praised God and prayed that He would prosper the work of our hands upon us. Three or four times in the evening, I was forced to break off preaching that we might pray and give thanks to God.

Thursday, 23.—It being computed that such a house as was proposed could not be finished under f 700, many were positive it would never be finished at all; others, that I should not live to see it covered. I was of another mind; nothing doubting but, as it was begun for God's sake, He would provide what was needful for the finishing it.

2 Correct.

3 Correct.

4 The apostrophe is left off here in the text.

5 Correct spelling.

6 Correct spelling.

7 Correct.

John Wesley, The Journal of John Wesley (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2000) Conversion to HTML and placename mark-up by Humphrey Southall, 2009.

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