Page images
PDF
EPUB

as he could be of the shining of the sun.

This was soon noised abroad ; more and more came to inquire concerning these strange things. Some put him upon the proof of the great truths which such inquiries na.. turally led him to mention; and thus he was brought unawares to quote, explain, compare, and enforce several parts of Scripture. This he did at first, sitting in his house, till the company increased so that the house could not contain them. Then he stood at the door, which he was commonly obliged to do, in the evening as soon as he came from work. God immediately set his seal to what was spoken ; and several be. lieved, and therefore declared that God was merciful also to their unrighteousness, and had forgiven all their

sins."*

In this manner John Nelson was employed as a teacher of Christianity at this early period. He afterward extended his labours by preaching during his dinner hour, and in the week-day evenings, as well as on the sabbath, in the surrounding towns and villages, till the magistrates interfered and sent him into the army, where he maintained his integrity, and nobly confessed his Lord. Subsequently to his liberation he was entirely devoted to the work of preaching the gospel ; and died, as he had lived, a good soldier of Jesus Christ, in the year 1774. His answers to cavil. lers, and the reproofs which he suddenly administered, were often most effective. Two instances may be given in illustration. When he had been pressed for a soldier, and was standing under a guard in the street at Leeds, a jolly well-dressed woman came to him, and, putting her face close to his, said, “ Now, Nelson, where is thy God? Thou saidst, at Shent's door, as thou wast preaching, thou wast no more afraid of his promise failing, than thou wast of dropping through the heart of the earth.” He answered, “ Look into the seventh chapter of Micah, and read the eighth and tenth verses." The words of those verses are, “ Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy : when I fall, I shall arise : when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. Then she that is mine enemy shall see it, and shame

* Works, vol. ii, p. 252, Am. edit.

shall cover her which said unto me, Where is the Lord thy God ?

When brought before one of the aldermen of Not. tingham, that guardian of the public, peace said, “I wonder you can't stay in your own places. You might be convinced by this time, that the mob of Not.. tingham will never let you preach quietly in this town.' John promptly responded, “ I beg pardon, sir; I did not know before now that this town was governed by a mob; for most such towns are governed by magis. trates.” The alderman scolded; but his blushes betrayed the emotion which John's gentle and well-timed sarcasm had created,

From the time at which the preaching of Messrs. Maxfield, Westell, Richards, and Nelson received the sanction of the two Wesleys, other men, of similar piety and gifts, offered their services, and were accepted; so that, besides a large number of local preachers who la. boured only in their own respective neighbourhoods, in the year 1765 the number of those who were wholly devoted to the work of preaching the gospel, and were not episcopally ordained, amounted to ninety-four; and at the time of Mr. Wesley's death they amounted to three hundred, including thirteen in the West Indies, and six in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. To these must be added the ministers belonging to the powerful and rapidly-increasing connection in the United States of America.

Many of the preachers, in common with the two Wesleys, by whom they were sanctioned and employed, endured severe and cruel persecutions, especially in the earlier periods of their ministry. Of this several in. stances are upon record. Two only will we mention in this place. Under the date of June 11th, 1744, Mr. Wesley says in his Journal, “ I left Newcastle, and in the afternoon met John Nelson, at Durham, with Thomas Beard, another quiet and peaceable man, who had lately been torn from his trade, and wife, and children, and sent away as a soldier, that is, banished from all that was near and dear to him, and constrained to dwell among lions, for no other crime, either com. mitted or pretended, than that of calling sinners to re

[ocr errors]

pentance. But his soul was in nothing terrified by his
adversaries. Yet the body, after a while, sunk under
its burden. He was then lodged in the hospital, at
Newcastle, where he still praised God continually.
His fever increasing, he was let blood. His arm fes-
tered, mortified, and was cut off: two or three days
after which God signed his discharge, and called him
up to his eternal home.
•• Servant of God, well done! Well hast thou fought

The better fight; who single hast maintain'd,
Against revolted multitudes, the cause

Of God; in word mightier than they in arms.' Mr. Thomas Mitchell gives the following account : - In the year 1751 I was stationed in Lincolnshire. I found a serious people, and an open door ; but there were inany adversaries. This was far the most trying year which I had ever known.

But in every temptation God made a way to escape, that I might be able to bear it.

« On Sunday, August 7th, I came to Wrangle, very early in the morning. I preached, as usual, at five. About six two constables came at the head of a large mob. They violently broke in upon the people, seized upon me, pulled me down, and took me to a public house, where they kept me till four in the afternoon. Then one of the constables seemed to relent, and said, • I will go to the minister, and inquire of him whether we may not now let the poor man go.' When he came back he said they were not to let him go yet. So he took me out to the mob, who presently hurried me away, and threw me into a pool of standing water. It took me up to the neck. Several times I strove to get out, but they pitched me in again. They told me I must go through it seven times. I did so; and then they let me come out. When I had got upon dry ground, a man stood ready with-a pot full of white paint. He painted me all over from head to foot, and then they carried me into a public-house again. Here I was kept till they had put five more of our friends into the water. Then they came, and took me out again, and carried me to a great pond, which was

railed in on every side, being ten or twelve feet deep. Here four men took me by my legs and arms, and swung me backward and forward. For a moment I felt the flesh shrink ; but it was quickly gone. I

gave myself up to the Lord, and was content his will should be done. They swung me two or three times, and then threw me as far as they could into the water. The fall and the water soon- took away my senses, so that I felt nothing more.

But some of them were not willing to have me drowned. So they watched till I came above water, and then catching hold of my clothes with a long pole, made shift to drag me out.

“ I lay senseless for some time. When I came to myself, I saw only two men standing by me. One of them helped me up, and desired me to go with him. He brought me to a little house, where they quiekly put me to bed. But I had not lain long before the mob came again, pulled me out of bed, carried me into the street, and swore they would take away one of my limbs, if I would not promise to come there no more. I told them • I can promise no such thing.' But the man that had hold of me promised for me, and took me back into the house, and put me to bed again. : “Some of the mob then went to the minister again, to know what they must do with me. He told them, • You must take him out of the parish.' So they came, and took me out of bed a second time. But I had no clothes to put on; my own being wet, and also covered with paint. But they put an old coat about me, took me about a mile, and set me upon a little hill. They then shouted three times, God save the king, and the devil take the preacher !!

“ Here they left me pennyless and friendless : for no one durst come near me, And my strength was nearly gone ; so that I had much ado to walk, or even to stand. But from the beginning to the end my mind was in perfect peace. I found no anger or resentment, but could heartily pray for my persecutors. But I knew not what to do, or where to go. Indeed, one of our friends lived three or four miles off. But I was so weak and ill, that it did not seem possible for me to get so far. However, I trusted in God, and set out;

and at length I got to the house. The family did every thing for me that was in their power : they got me clothes, and whatever else was needful. I rested four days with them, in which time my strength was tolerably restored. Then I went into the circuit, where I met with more persecution. As I was preach. ing in a certain village in the Fen, the mob came into the house, and broke through the congregation, in order to pull me down; but the good woman of the house took me into the parlour, and stood in the door with a great kitchen-poker in her hand, and told the mob the first man that came near the door she would knock him down. As she was very big with child, and near the time of her travail, this, with the sight of the great poker, kept them off, so that they could not get at me. However, they stayed for some time, and then left the house without doing much harm. After they were gone, I gave an exhortation, went to prayer, and then went to bed in peace. In the midst of this persecution, many were brought to the saving knowledge of God. And as the sufferings of Christ abounded, so our consolations by Christ abounded also. As to the lions at Wrangle, an appeal to the Court of King's Bench made both them and the minister quiet

as lambs."*

Some of Mr. Wesley's early preachers were men of strong intellect, and attained to considerable eminence in sacred scholarship. Thomas Olivers, originally a shoemaker, and a young man of profligate habits, became not only an excellent Christian, but an able and powerful preacher. He wrote several polemical tracts, which reflect great credit upon his theological attain. ments, and his ability as a reasoner. The fine hymns, beginning,

“Lo, He comes, with clouds descending,” and,

“ The God of Abraham praise,” were both his composition ; and also the beautiful and appropriate tune which is set to the first of them in

* Lives of Early Methodist Preachers, vol. i, pp. 74–77.

« PreviousContinue »