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them to occupy a place in the highest society, as well as to excel in every branch of polite learning. Wesley thus forcibly expresses himself in his " Earnest Appeal :"_" Suppose field-preaching to be ever so ex. pedient, or even necessary ; yet who will contest with us for this province ? May we not enjoy this quiet and unmolested ? unmolested, I mean, by any competi. tors. For who is there among you, brethren, that is willing (examine your own hearts) even to save souls from death at this price? Would not you let a thou. sand souls perish, rather than you would be the instru. ment of rescuing them thus? I do not speak now with regard to conscience, but to the inconveniences that must accompany it. Can you sustain them if you would? Can you bear the summer sun to beat upon your naked head?
Can you suffer the wintry rain or wind, from whatever quarter it blows? Are you able to stand in the open air, without any covering or de. fence, when God casteth abroad his snow like wool, or scattereth his hoar-frost like ashes ? And yet these are some of the smallest inconveniences which accom. pany field-preaching. Far beyond all these are the contradiction of sinners, the scoffs both of the great vulgar and the small; contempt and reproach of every kind ; often more than verbal affronts, stupid, brutal violence; sometimes to the hazard of health, or limbs, or life. Brethren, do you envy us this honour ? What, I pray, would buy you to be a field-preacher ? Or what, think you, could induce any man of common sense to continue therein one year, unless he had a full conviction in himself that it was the will of God con. cerning him?
“ Upon this conviction it is that we now do, for the good of souls, what you cannot, will not, dare not do. And we desire not that you should ; but this one thing we may reasonably desire of you : Do not increase the difficulties which are already so great, that, without the mighty power of God, we must sink under them.
Do not assist in trampling down a little handful of men who for the present stand in the gap between ten thou. sand poor wretches and destruction, till you find some others to take their places.
* Works, vol. v, pp. 163, 164. Am. edit.
When the Wesleys went forth into the open air, that they might preach the word of life, they in effect declared the depth of their religious convictions. Sometimes they met with a kind reception from the multitudes ; but they often experienced the rudest and most determined opposition, especially in the earlier periods of their itinerant ministry. In pursuance of their calling, they exposed themselves to the heat of the summer's
's sun, and to the winter's cold ; the rain, hail, and snow often falling upon their naked heads ; while stones, putrid eggs, and every other species of hurtful and filthy missile flew in all directions, and profane men treated them either with contemptuous laughter or bitter scorn. “ Howbeit, certain men,” enlightened and impressed under their word, in almost every place, " clave unto them,” and requested that they might be admitted to the benefit of Christian fellowship, and of pastoral care.
THE FORMATION OF SOCIETIES. One unavoidable effect of the powerful preaching of the Wesleys was the formation of religious societies. Many of the people, being deeply impressed with the truth which they heard, became alarmed for the con. sequences of their sin, and desired further instruction in the wayof salvation; and those who had been renewed in the spirit of their minds longed for those spiritual helps which Christian fellowship supplies. Hence such as were awakened to a right perception of divine things were, at their own request, united' together, for their mutual comfort and edification,
Several distinct Methodist societies were indeed formed, and most of them dissolved, before what are called the United Societies, as now existing, were organized. The first was that at Oxford, which continued from 1729 to the year 1736, when it was perhaps broken up in consequence of the removal of the Wesleys to Georgia. The second was that at Sayan. nah, which met in the house of Mr. Wesley every Sun. day afternoon, and was discontinued when he returned to England. The third began in London, on the 1st of May, 1738, under the advice and encouragement of Peter Böhler. It consisted of forty or fifty persons,
many of whom appear to have been the personal friends of the two Wesleys, and like them piously disposed. The brothers, it will be recollected, had not, at that time, attained the true Christian faith, by which the ungodly are justified, and the heart is freed from the power of sin. The rules of this society were peculiar, and not adapted to general use. Soon after this society was constituted, Peter Böbler left England ; Mr. Charles Wesley lost his health ; and his brother went to Germany. Yet it continued to meet and to increase, so that in the January following it amounted to sixty people. This society met at Fetter-lane, in connection with the Moravian Church with whom several of its members were ultimately incorporated. The rest were joined to the United Societies, of which the two Wesleys had the exclusive superintendence.”
The fourth Methodist society was in Bristol, and some adjacent places. It commenced in the summer of 1739, at which period Mr. Wesley preached in that city and its neighbourhood with uncommon energy and success, in connection with his friend Mr. Whitefield, who had not as yet separated from him. Speaking of this year, Mr. Wesley says, “ In April I went down to Bristol, and soon after a few persons agreed to meet weekly, with the same intention as those in London. These were swiftly increased, by the occasion of several little societies, which were till then accustomed to meet in divers parts of the city, but now agreed to unite together in one. And about the same time several of the colliers of Kingswood, begin. ning to awake out of sleep, joined together, and resolved to walk by the same rule. And these likewise swiftly increased. A few also at Bath began to help each other in running the race set before them."*
The people thus united together were afterward divided, when Mr. Whitefield began to preach the doctrine of absolute predestination. Many of them, however, ad. hered to Mr. Wesley, and became members of what he called the United Societies, which were formed during the same year, and upon somewhat different principles. * Works, vol. yii, p. 349, Am. edit.
The time at which the first of the United Societies was formed is marked by Mr. Wesley with sufficient exactness. The following is his own account:"In the latter end of the year 1739 eight or ten persons came to me in London, who appeared to be deeply convinced of sin, and earnestly groaning for redemption. They desired (as did one or two more the next day) that I would spend some time with them in prayer, and advise them how to flee from the wrath to come, which they saw continually hanging over their heads. That we might have more time for this great work, I appointed a day when they might all come together, which from thenceforward they did every week, pamely, on Thursday, in the evening.* To these, and as many more as desired to join with them, (for their number increased daily,) I gave those advices, from time to time, which I judged most need. ful for them; and we always concluded our meeting with prayer suited to their several necessities.
“ This was the rise of the United Society, first in London, and then in other places. Such a society is no other than a company of men having the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation.”+
He speaks still more definitely in his “Earnest Ap. peal," where he says, “ The case in London stands thus :-In November 1739, two gentlemen, then un. known to me, Mr. Ball and Mr. Watkins, came and desired me once and again to preach in a place called the Foundery, near Moorfields. With much reluc. tance, I at length complied. The United Society begun a little after."
Mr. Wesley, therefore, distinguishes what he sometime calls the United Societies, and at other times the United Society, from all the other religious associations with which he had been previously connected. The first of these United Societies he declares to have
* “ Twelve came the first Thursday night; forty the next; soon after, a hundred."
+ Works, vol. v: p. 190, Am. edit. # Ibid., vol. v, p. 29.
begun in the year 1739, after he had taken possession of the Foundery in November. It was therefore formed either in the month of November or Decem. ber, 1739, and served as a model according to which all subsequent societies were constituted. The societies in question were established “ first in London, and then in other places."
Mr. Wesley did not break off his connection with the society which met in Fetter-lane, and which was principally under the direction of the Moravian Church, till July, 1740 ;* so that from the latter end of the year 1739, to this period, he was united with two distinct and independent societies in London ; one of which was exclusively under his own pastoral care and that of his brother, and the other mainly under the superintendence of the Moravian ministers.
The larger of the United Societies Mr. Wesley divided into classes, each of which was placed under the care of a leader. The work assigned to him in the first instance was, to see all the members of his class once a week, in order to inquire how their souls -prospered ; to advise, reprove, comfort, or exhort, as occasion might require; and to receive what they were willing to give toward the relief of the poor. first,” says Mr. Wesley, “ they visited each person at his own house ; but this was found not so expedient; and that on many accounts : 1. It took up more time than most of the leaders had to spare. 2. Many persons lived with masters, mistresses, or relations, who would not suffer them to be thus visited. 3. At the houses of those who were not so averse, they often had no opportunity of speaking to them but in com. pany. And this did not at all answer the end proposed, -of exhorting, comforting, or reproving. 4. It fre. quently happened that one affirmed what another de. nied. And this could not be cleared up without seeing them all together. 5. Little misunderstandings and quarrels of various kinds frequently arose among relations or neighbours, effectually to remove which it was needful to see them face to face. Upon all these considerations, it was agreed that those of each class
* Works, vol. iii, pp. 190, 191, Am. edit