THE NORWICH CIRCUIT,
On Saturday, Aug. 16, 1783, Mr. Clarke arrived in the city of Norwich, the head place of the circuit, and found one of the late preachers ill of a fever: and although he was obliged to sleep in the same room, the smell of which was pestiferous, yet through God’s mercy he did not catch the disorder. The circuit extended into different parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, and included the following places; Norwich, Yarmouth, Lowestoffe, Loddon, Heckingham, North Cove, Teasborough, Stratton, Hardwick, Thurlton, Haddiscoe, Beccles, Wheatacre, Lopham, Diss, Whartham, Dickleborough, Winfarthing, Barford, Hempnel, Besthorp, and Thurne. In all, twenty-two places. Each preacher continued one week in the city, and then spent three weeks in the country; and to go round the places in the month was a journey of above 260 miles. The preachers who labored with him were, Richard Whatcoat, John Ingham, and William Adamson. The former was a very holy man of God, a good and sound preacher, but not of splendid abilities. He was diligent and orderly in his work; and a fine example of practical piety in all his conduct. The year after, at the earnest request of Dr. Coke, he went over to America, and there became one of the bishops of the Methodist-episcopal church; — pursued among the transatlantic brethren, the same noiseless tenor of his way, seeking only the establishment of the kingdom of God both in himself and others: and died in the faith, universally esteemed.
Mr. I. was a good-natured man, of no learning, and of but slender abilities; yet he had a sort of popular address that helped him to make his way in the circuit. He professed to cure many disorders: and his prescriptions were made up of a pennyworth of oil of leeks, a pennyworth of oil of swallows, &c. &c., all as equally efficacious as they were attainable. But although the apothecaries and druggists had no such medicaments, they gave the poor people something under those names, that would do as well, and thus but little harm was done. He was himself a most disgusting slave to tobacco; and never preached without a quid in his mouth! The Methodist connection have wisely proscribed both quackery and tobacco; as in all their forms, they are disgraceful to a Christian minister. They are also dangerous: the former leads to many snares; especially in reference to females: the latter is so closely associated with intemperance in drinking, that few of its votaries escape. Thus poor Ingham fell the following year; and was heard of in the church of God no more.
W. Adamson was a young man, very sincere, had got the rudiments of a classical education; but was of such an unsteady, fickle mind, that he excelled in nothing. The next year he retired from preaching.
In every respect the circuit was low. There was no place in it, in which religion flourished, either among the Methodists or others: lukewarmness and Antinomianism generally prevailed; and if any thing prospered, it was Calvinism as a system, many putting much of their trust for salvation in a belief of its doctrines. Among many in the city of Norwich, this was carried to the wildest extremes. There were even in the Methodists’ society several local preachers; that were Calvinists and leaders of classes: and, in consequence, the people were unhinged and unsteady, and made no progress either in piety or practical godliness; for they were continually halting between two opinions. Yet there were many good and sensible people in the society, whose life and conversation adorned the doctrine of God their Saviour. And in the course of the year, religion revived a little, principally through the preaching of the doctrine of entire sanctification or complete redemption from all sin in this life. Several saw this to be their privilege, and sought it with their whole heart.
In Norwich the society was very poor: a family lived in the preachers’ house, and provided for the preachers at so much per meal, and the bill was brought in to the stewards’ and leaders meeting at the end of the week, and discharged: and he was most certainly considered the best preacher who ate the fewest meals, because his bills were the smallest. In this respect Mr. Clarke excelled: he took only a little milk to his breakfast, drank no tea or coffee and took nothing in the evening. Hence his bills were very small. Sometimes, but not often the preachers were invited out, and this also contributed to lessen the expense.
One ludicrous circumstance, relative to an invitation to breakfast, I may here mention. After Mr. Clarke had preached one morning at 5 o’clock, a young woman of the society came to him and said; “Sir, will you do me the favor to breakfast with me this morning? I breakfast always at eight o’clock. “Thank you,” said he, “but I know not where you live.” “O,” said she, “I live in _____ Street, near Maudlin gate, No. [number] _____.” “I do not know the place.” “Well, but you cannot well miss it, after the directions I shall give you.” “Very well.” “You must cross Cherry Lane, and go on to the Quakers’ preaching-house: — do you know it?” “Yes.” “Well then, leave the Quakers’ preaching-house on the left hand, and go down that lane till you come to the bottom; and then on your right hand you will see a door that appears to lead into a garden, with an inscription over it: can you read?” “Yes, a little.” “Well then, the board will direct you so and so, and you cannot then miss.” “Thank you: I shall endeavor to be with you at the time appointed.” “I went” said Mr. C., “and because I had the happiness of being able to read, I found out my way!”
This little anecdote will serve to show, that in those times the Methodists could not expect much from their ministers; as it appears they thought it possible, they might have some that could not read their Bible! Howsoever illiterate they may have been deemed, it may be safely asserted, no instance is on record of an itinerant preacher among the Methodists being unable to read his Bible. Many, it is true, of the original preachers, could read but indifferently: and I have known several of the clergy who did not excel even in this: and I have known one who, in reading 2 Kings xix. made three unsuccessful trials to pronounce the word Sennacherib, — Senacrib, Sennacherub, and terminated with Snatchcrab! But such swallows make no summers; and should never be produced as instances from which the general character of a class or body of men should be deduced. The time is long past since men in any department of life have been prized on account of their ignorance.
I shall give another anecdote, which, with the intelligent Reader, will not place Mr. C. in a disadvantageous point of view.
The coals in Norwich are remarkably bad, and it is a common custom to blow the fire almost continually, in order to keep it alive, or to perform the operations of cookery. Hence a pair of bellows, the general bane of fires, is a useful appendage to a Norwich kitchen and parlor also. When Mr. C. entered on his lodging in the preachers’ house in this city, he found the bellows worn out, so that they would hold no wind; and the fire-riddle, or instrument by which they sifted the ashes and returned all the cinders to the grate, worn beyond use. The poker also was burnt to the stump. He said to Mrs. P., the housekeeper, “Why do you not get new instruments here, or else get these repaired?” — “O dear, sir, we cannot do either, the society is so poor.” — “Is it so? well, something may be done. I cannot mend the poker, for that requires a forge; but I think I can mend the bellows and the riddle.” — “Can you?” “Yes, if you can furnish me with a little leather, no matter, old or new, and an old tin kettle or saucepan. Take these pence, and go and bring me a hundred of twopenny tacks.” An old pair of leathern small clothes, furnished him with materials for mending the bellows; which he soon made air tight: and an old sauce-pan, which he unsoldered by holding over the fire, furnished tin to mend the riddle. He borrowed a stab awl and a hammer, from a shoemaker, and getting an old pair of scissors, he cut out the tin, punched in it the necessary holes, used the tacks as rivets, having a flat iron for an anvil, which he held between his knees; and thus soon restored this necessary instrument to effective usefulness. Thus, at the expense of twopence to himself, he made these two instruments serviceable: and the stewards, seeing this, mustered courage to get the poker new bitted!
In this city he frequently cleaned and blacked his own shoes, and those of his brethren, as there was no person regularly employed to do this service.
He found no difficulty in acting according to the advice given to preachers when admitted into the Methodist connection: “Do not affect the gentleman; and be not above cleaning your own shoes, or those of others, if need be.”
There was but one horse in the circuit for the four preachers, which, when the preacher who had it out in the circuit came into town, he who had been the resident preacher the week before, immediately mounted, and rode off to the country, in order to save expense. Thus it must frequently happen that while another was riding his horse, Mr. C. was obliged to walk the circuit, and carry his saddle-bags on his back, that contained his linen and a few books. It was curious to see him set off from the chapel in Cherry Lane, his bags tied upon his back, and thus walk through the city of Norwich, and return in the same way. several days after covered with dust or mud, and greatly fatigued. But this was far from being the worst: except at a very few places, the accommodations were exceedingly bad.
Sometimes in the severest weeks of one of the most severe winters, he was obliged to lodge in a loft, where, through the floor he could see every thing below; and sometimes in an out-house, where perhaps, for seven years together, there had not been a spark of fire lighted. The winter of 1783 was exceedingly severe, and the cold intense; even warm water in his room, has been frozen in a few seconds! He has often been obliged to get into bed with a part of his clothes on; strip them off by degrees as the bed got warmed; and then he in the same position, without attempting to move his limbs, every unoccupied place in the bed, which his legs or other parts touched, producing the same sensation, as if the parts had been brought into contact with red hot iron. It was here that he learned that the extreme of cold produced on the living muscle, precisely the same sensation as the extreme of heat; and this rendered credible what a friend of his, who had traveled in Russia, told him, that if he laid hold on any iron exposed to the open air, he could not separate his hand from it but at the expense of that part of the skin and flesh which came in contact with the metal.
In several places that year the snow lay from ten to fifteen feet deep. It began to fall Dec. 25, and was not all gone before the middle of the following April. The frost was so intense that succeeded, that he could seldom keep his saddle five minutes together, but must alight and walk and run, to prevent his feet from being frost-bitten. In the poor cabins where he lodged, and where there was no other kind of fire than what was produced by a sort of dried turf, almost entirely red earth, that never emitted any flame; and where the clothing on the bed was very light, he suffered much; going to bed cold, lying all night cold, and rising cold. He has sometimes carried with him a parcel of coarse brown paper, and with a hammer and chisel, payed up some of the larger crevices under the bed, to prevent him from total starvation! Add to all this, very homely food, and sometimes but little of it; which the poor people most readily shared with him who came to their houses and their hearts with the Gospel of their salvation; and who, except for such preaching, must have been almost totally destitute of that instruction, without which there was little hope of their salvation. It was by these means and often in such circumstances through many privations, much pain and suffering, the Methodist preachers spread scriptural Christianity throughout the land; and became the means of ameliorating the moral and civil condition of the great mass of its comparatively poor, and almost totally neglected inhabitants: i.e. of those who are emphatically said to constitute its lower orders. To such preaching the nation and the state are under endless obligation.
Ye ministers, who have entered this vineyard in the halcyon days of the Church, think of what your predecessors have suffered, to make plain paths for your feet to walk in. And see that ye give all diligence to maintain that ground which they have gained by inches, and at the hazard and expense of their lives. Talk not of your hardships and privations; for of these ye can know comparatively nothing.
This was a year of severe labor and suffering, yet of but little apparent fruit; though a good seed was sown, which in more auspicious times sprang up to the glory of God. The American war was just terminated; and shortly after, peace began to flourish, and confidence was restored. Mr. C. preached in several new places, and among the rest in Diss, then, very unpromising, but now the head of a circuit. He has gone frequently there, put up his horse at an Inn, preached, paid for his horse, and rode several miles to preach at some other place, without any soul offering him even a morsel of bread: and such was the state of his finances that both he and his horse could not eat, and the poor brute must not fast. What could three pounds per quarter do, besides providing clothes, a few books, and all necessaries of life, the mere articles of food excepted; which as we have seen, was furnished at the different places where he preached. These twelve pounds per ann. out of which each preacher paid a guinea for the support of superannuated preachers and preachers’ widows, was the whole salary of a Methodist itinerant Preacher.
In this circuit he labored much to improve his mind and also to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of himself and God. In Lowestoffe he met with some very kind friends: among the chief of these were the late Mr. Thos. Tripp, and Mr. Thos. Mallet. The former let him have the use of a small but valuable Library, whenever he came to the place; and the latter lent him some valuable papers on various passages of Scripture, which were of very great use to him. Indeed he was entertained at the houses of these men, as at the house of a parent: and of their kindness he ever spoke in the highest terms.
I find the following entries in Mr. Clarke’s Journal of this month. “Mond. Oct. 20. Mr. Wesley is just now paying his annual visit to Norwich; and I have had the high gratification of hearing him preach from <19A612> Psalm 106:12. ‘What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.’ “In treating this subject he 1st. took a view of the principal benefits which God has conferred upon mankind in general, and believers in particular, from their creation even to the smallest means of grace, of which they are made partakers. “2. He showed what we should render unto God for these benefits: viz. to take the cup of salvation. The term cup, he showed was a Hebraism signifying plenty, e. g. the cup of sorrow — of joy — of trembling; and means plenty or abundance of sorrow, joy, trembling, &c. So by the cup of salvation, we are to understand plenty or abundance of salvation: and this consists in justification, and entire sanctification. O Lord, how merciful and incomparably indulgent art thou to mankind! seeing all thou askest from them in return for former benefits, is that they would receive the abundance of those which thou hast further promised: — The sole return thy love requires is, that we ask for more. “Tues. 21. Mr. W. preached again on Matthew 19:6. ‘What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ On these words he observed in general, that men were prone to separate what God had joined; and thus bring ruin on themselves. In particular, 1st. God bath joined piety and morality, but many separate these: for, leaving piety to God out of the question, they think an observance of external duties sufficient; and thus remain without genuine hope, and without God in the world. “2dly. He showed that the same authority had joined the love of God, and the love of man together: but in this also many were woefully deficient; pretending to love God, while hating their brother; and pretending true friendship to man, while enemies to God. “3dly He hath also joined faith and works together; so that in the sight and purpose of God, one cannot exist without the other. But many are contending for faith, while living in sin: and others contend for good works, while without faith in the real Redeemer of mankind. “4. God as joined the end and the means together: but many expect the accomplishment of the end, without using the means; they expect pardon, holiness, and heaven, without prayer, repentance, faith, and obedience. This he proved was sheer enthusiasm; — to expect the accomplishment of any end without using the means which lead to that end. On this point, he dwelt particularly, and brought the charge of enthusiasm home against the major part of the different religious professions in the nation.”
Mr. Clarke had the privilege of hearing Mr. Wesley preach twice each day during the remaining part of this week; the following were the texts: — They despised the pleasant land; they belieived not his word, <19A624> Psalm 106:24. But we preach Christ crucified, 1 Corinthians 1:23. Wherefore, he is able to save to the uttermost, Hebrews 7:25. For we look not at the things that are seen, 2 Corinthians 4:18. Put on the whole armour of God, Ephesians 6:11 &c. Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness, &c. Matthew 5:20. Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, &c. Acts 1:5. The kingdom of God is at hand, Mark 1:15.
Of most of these Sermons he has preserved either the skeletons, or the leading thoughts.
When he parted with Mr. W. on Sat. 25, he made the following entry in his Journal: “Here I took my farewell of this precious servant of God. O, Father, let thy angels attend him wheresoever he goes: — let the energetic power of thy Spirit accompany the words he shall speak, and apply them to the hearts of all that shall hear them; and may they be the means of conviction, conversion, comfort, and strength, to all; as they may severally require. And let me also abundantly “profit by the things I have heard from him.”
At this time he had some private conversation with Mr. W. concerning the state of his soul, from which he derived much edification and strength.
Before we proceed farther with this narrative, it may not be improper to relate the following anecdotes, which must be introduced by a few observations.
Norfolk appeared to Mr. Clarke to be the most ungodly county he had ever yet visited. He found it generally irreligious. Except among a very few religious people the Sabbath-day was universally disregarded. Buying and selling were considered neither unseemly nor sinful; and on that day the sports of the field, particularly fowling, were general. — Multitudes even of those called religious people, bought and sold without any remorse. To find a man saved from this sin was a very rare thing indeed. Against this horrible profanation, Mr. C. lifted up a strong and steady voice: visited the members of his own society in different places, from house to house, who were guilty of this sin; pointed out the evil of their conduct, and exacted the promise of immediate reformation.
At a place called Teasborough be lodged and preached at the house of a miller, Mr. J. Nichols; from him he received the following account of his conversion from the sin of Sabbath-breaking. — “After I heard the Methodists preach, and was convinced of sin, I continued to work my mills, and sell meal and flour on the Lord’s-day as usual. But in this practice I soon became very uneasy, being continually followed by those words, ‘Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath-day.’ I at last determined, whatever might be the consequence, to give it up. I accordingly ordered my men to stop the mills on the Lord’s-day, as I was determined to grind no more: and I informed my customers, that I should serve them no longer on the Sabbath, and hoped that they would make it convenient to come on the Saturday evening. Some affected to pity me; others said they would go to other shops: but scarcely any supposed that I would be steady to my resolutions. The next Sabbath they came as usual, and every one was refused. Their dis pleasure was general, and they went to other millers; of whom there were several in the neighborhood. The next Saturday, however, many of them came and were served; and in a short time all, or as many as I had before, returned; and now, far from being poorer, on account of this sacrifice, which many said would be my ruin, I am this day at least one thousand pounds richer than I was then.”
Here, then, is a plain confutation, founded on a very strong fact, of that wretched objection: “If I do not sell on the Sabbath I shall lose my customers, and so be reduced to poverty.” No. — Such persons do not make the trial, therefore, they cannot tell how it might be with them; and their objections are not to be regarded, as they are founded only on conjecture and uncertainty. At all events the thing should be abandoned, for it is a sin against God, and the order of society.
Mr. N. farther said, that this practice became at last so oppressive to his mind, that he was obliged to leave his own house on the Lord’s-day, and walk in the fields, that he might neither see nor hear his mills at work; nor witness the sinful traffic that was carried on in his house. To this general neglect of the Sabbath, Mr. C. attributed the small progress which religion made in this county. Suffolk so far as he knew it, was very little better.
The irreligion of this county farther appeared in a general hatred to the Gospel of Christ. In former days, persecution had raged in an uncommon degree; and although that had in some measure subsided yet there was still a decided hostility to religion. The preachers scarcely ever preached in Norwich on the Sabbath evening without having less or more disturbance, or a mob at the chapel doors. Mr. Wesley himself was not better treated.
Once when he visited Norwich, it was in company with Mr. John Hampson, senior. This man was well known in the Methodist connection being many years an itinerant preacher. He was a man of gigantic make, well proportioned, and of the strongest muscular powers: he was also a man of strong understanding, and much grandeur of mind. — When Mr. W. had finished his discourse and was coming out of the chapel, they found the whole lane filled with a furious mob, who began to close in on Mr. W. Mr. Hampson immediately pushed forward, and from the attitude he assumed, Mr. W. supposed, he was about to enter into conflict with the mob; he therefore addressed him with great earnestness, and said, “Pray, Mr. Hampson, do not use any violence.” To which Mr. H. replied, with a terrible voice like the bursting roll of distant thunder, “Let me alone, Sir; if God has not given you an arm to quell this mob, he has given use me: and the first man that molests you here, I will lay him for DEAD!” — Death itself seemed to speak in the last word — it was pronounced in a tone the most terrific. The mob heard, looked at the man, and were appalled — there was a universal rush, who should get off soonest: and in a very short time the lane was emptied, and the mob was dissipated like the thin air. Mr. Hampson had no need to let any man feel even the weight of his arm. — For such times as these, God has made such men.
I shall mention one other anecdote of this most powerful man. — In the year 1788, the Methodists’ Conference was held in London, at the great Chapel, City Road. Mr. Clarke was coming down the road, and a little before him Mr. George Holder, one of the preachers, and his wife; it was near the blank wall of Bunhill Burying Ground; — a hackney coachman drove so carelessly as nearly to crush Mr. and Mrs. H. to death, against the wall: they were however but little hurt. Mr. Hampson stood on the other side of the way and did not see the danger till it was past. — On being informed of it, (the coachman was then driving down the road) in strong agitation he addressed Mr. Holder — “What, he was near crushing you and your wife to death against the wall! Why, Sir, did you not take the rascal’s coach by the wheel and turn it over!” He spake as he felt he could have done — a thing which not one in a million of men could have performed except himself. Poor Holder could not have lifted the nave of one of the wheels, much less the whole coach!
I find the following entry in his Journal, under the date of Sunday, January 4, 1784, which is too important to be passed by unnoticed.
Mr. J. H., who had been master of Kingswood school, and several years a traveling preacher, had retired in the preceding year, and became resident in Norwich. He was a kind and affable man, but had unhappily drunk in the doctrines of Baron Swedenborgh. On a conversation that passed between them this day, on the subject of the Trinity, Mr. C. was a good deal perplexed, and writes as follows. “I was a good deal distressed in my mind today, by conversing with a preacher on the doctrine or the Trinity and some other points. Many, said he, are greatly puzzled with the mystery of the doctrine of the Trinity: but there is in truth, no mystery in it, if we leave out the unscripural word “person.” There is a Trinity; but it is not a trinity of persons; but, what is called God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is only the Great God acting under three different characters. He added several things more to the same effect; and especially against what he called the unscriptural and absurd doctrine of three persons in the Godhead. Against this doctrine Mr. C. gave the following reasons. This appears to me absurd, as there are a multitude of characters under which God acts: if he is to be designated from such characters, as to his Godhead, this Godhead might be as well called a Denity, a Quadragintenity, yea, a Centenity, as well as a Trinity: as God acts under ten, forty, yea a hundred different characters i n reference to man. Besides, that there is a Trinity of persons in the most proper sense of the word, is proved by what happened at the Baptism of our Lord, ( Matthew 3:16, 17:) where we find that he, the Son, was baptized, the Holy Ghost in a bodily form like a dove, lighted upon him, and a voice from God the Father; was heard out of heaven, declaring that this was his beloved Son. Here, it is most evident, there were three distinct persons, occupying three distinct places, and not one God acting under three distinct characters: this argument is most undoubtedly unanswerable. Again, we find two distinct persons worshipped by the Angels in heaven: for there they worship God and the Lamb: not God under the character of a Lamb. Again, we are told to worship the Son, even as we worship the Father: now, if we believe that it is one person acting under different characters; and we are commanded to worship the Son, that is, one of these characters; then this is not worshipping God, but one of the characters under which he acts, and this would be flat idolatry, were it not nonsense; which, well for the sentiment, is neutralized by this absurdity. On this mode of explanation, this part of the doctrine of Baron Swedenborgh must for ever stand self-confuted. “On this same day, Sunday, a dreadful judgment of God fell on some Sabbath-breakers. Three young lads, one of them son to the man with whom I lodged, went out in the morning, on a shooting party, as is the general custom in this irreligious county. They came to a hedge and one got over; the other, who held the gun, reached it through the hedge with its butt end foremost, to him who had just got over; the third was behind him who carried the gun. Some of the branches caught the trigger as he was pushing the gun through the hedge, and the gun went off. The lad who held the gun received no damage, for the muzzle was through under his arm, while striving to push the gun through the hedge. When the gun went off he suddenly turned to the lad behind him, and said, Are you shot? The other replied, I believe I am. The shot had torn away a part of the abdomen, and the intestines were issuing at the wound! The lad who held the gun seeing this, dropped it and ran away to a pond that was at hand, and plunged in, with t he intention to drown himself: but another party coming up, who were out on the same unholy business, dragged him out. As soon as he came to himself, and got out of their hands, he desperately jumped in a second time — and afterwards a third time: but he was rescued and taken to his master’s house. When there, he made an attempt to cut his own throat with his knife. The lad who was shot, expired in about an hour: he was nineteen years of age.
Behold here the goodness and severity of God! Towards him who fell, severity, but to the others goodness, would they lay it to heart, and call upon God for mercy, that they might be saved from their sins, and from future punishment. The lad who held the gun by which the other was shot, being in a house (about eighteen days before this accident took place) where was writing the names of the members of the society upon the quarterly tickets, took up one of them into his hand, looked on it and held it for a considerable time: the verse which was upon the ticket, was this; Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. Here was a sufficient warning; and had he attended to it, he had not been the cause of this catastrophe.
How evident will it appear at the day of judgment, that God is clear of the blood of all men! who by various methods apprises them of the danger they are in, and the ruin to which they are exposed by their sin. God speaketh once, yea, twice, but men regard it not.”
While on this circuit, Mr. Clarke began to read Mr. Wesley’s Philosophy.
To subjects of this kind his heart had ever a strong propensity. On this point I find the following reflections inserted, April the 14th, 1784, in his Journal. “How do the unerring wisdom and goodness of God, appear in all the arts of the creation! How admirably well has he adjusted all the parts to answer their respective ends! And is it not most evident that he has intended happiness for every being capable of it? and particularly for man, favored man, for whom all the rest appear to have been brought into existence. See how the faculties of his soul, and the regular adjustment of all the parts of his body, proclaim at once the wisdom and benevolence of his Creator! Hence ye unconditional reprobarian notions; ye imputation of folly and sin to the Most High, which teach that Infinite Wisdom and Love produced myriads of such beings as man, to be abandoned irrecoverably to eternal flames, merely to display the sovereignty of the Creator! From whence ye have originated return, ye Goddishonoring principles! Surely ye have derived your origin from him who is the implacable enemy of God and man! He who can advocate them, if he be in human form, must have the heart of a Hyrcanian tiger. “Every Christian should study philosophy; as from it he will more evidently discover:
1. That he who is so fearfully and wonderfully made, so marvelously preserved, and so bountifully fed, should give up unreservedly, his all to God, and devote the powers which he has received to the service of the Creator. 2. When atheistical notions would intrude, a few reflections on the manifold wisdom displayed in the creation, may be the means of breaking the subtle snare of a designing foe. And, 3. by the study of nature, under grace, the soul becomes more enlarged, and is capable of hearing a more extensive, deeper, and better defined image of the divine perfections.”
In this circuit Mr. C. heard of some celebrated female preachers, and he entered it with considerable prejudice against this kind of ministry. In one part of the circuit, Thurlton, one of the most famous of these dwelt, Miss Mary Sewell. On his first coming to the house, he questioned her concerning her call, &c. And she modestly answered, by referring him to the places where she had preached in the circuit; and wished him to inquire among the people whether any good had been done. — He did so, on his next visit to those parts, and heard of numbers who had been awakened under her ministry, and with several of these he conversed, and found their experience in divine things, scriptural and solid. He thought then, this is God’s word, and if he choose to convert men by employing such means, who am I that I should criticize the ways of God! On the 28th of April, 1784, he had the opportunity of hearing Miss Sewell preach; her text was, Ephesians 2:8. By grace ye are saved through faith. On which I find the following entry in his Journal. “I have this morning heard Miss Sewell preach; she has a good talent for exhortation, and her words spring from a heart that evidently feels deep concern for the souls of the people; and, consequently, her hearers are interested and affected. I have formerly been no friend to female preaching; but my sentiments are a little altered. If God give to a holy woman, a gift for exhortation and reproof, I see no reason why it should not he used. This woman’s preaching has done much good; and fruits of it may be found copiously, in different places in the circuit. I can therefore adopt the saying of a shrewd man who having heard her preach, and being asked his opinion of the lawfulness of it, answered, An ass reproved Balsam, and a cock reproved Peter, and why may not a woman reprove sin!” “Such women should be patterns of all piety, of unblameable conversation, correct and useful in their families, and furnished to every good work. This certainly is the character of Miss Sewell; may she ever maintain it.”
And she did maintain it, but she died soon after, as she had lived, in the faith and consolations of the Gospel.
Shortly after this, he had the opportunity of hearing another of these female preachers, Mrs. Proudfoot: she spoke from Exodus 3:3., And the bush was not burnt. Of her he remarks: — “She spoke several pertinent things, which tended both to conviction and consolation; and seems to possess genuine piety. If the Lord choose to work in this way, shall my eye be evil because He is good? God forbid! Rather let me extol that God, who, by contemptible instruments, and the foolishness of preaching, saves those who believe in Jesus. Thou, Lord, choosest to confound the wisdom of the world by foolishness, and its strength by weakness, that no soul may glory in thy presence; and that the excellency of the power may be seen to belong to Thee, alone. Had not this been the case, surely I had never been raised up to call sinners to repentance.”
In this Circuit, he appears to have had very many conflicts and spiritual exercises. His labors were severe: — he had much riding; and, in most places, as we have already seen, uncomfortable lodging and fare. Besides, he frequently preached four times on the Sabbath, and in the morning at five o’clock, winter and summer, whenever he could get a congregation of sixteen or twenty persons to hear. He read a little Hebrew, and improved himself a little in French; but Greek and Latin, as a study, we have already seen, were proscribed. He had every where the affections of the people; and, although his labor was severe, this served to hold up his hands: and his gift of preaching increased. Good was done; but there was no remarkable revival. He lived in harmony with his brethren, and especially with Mr. Whatcoat, who ever acted as a father to him.
A little before he left the Circuit, he wrote a long letter to the Rev. William Lemon, Rector of Geytonthorpe, which was occasioned by a definition of the word Methodists, in his Etymological Dictionary, just then published; which, Mr. C. gave numerous reasons why he should change in his second edition: but the book never sold, and the second edition is yet to come.
The author took up the absurd opinion that all, or nearly all, the words in the English language, were derived from the Greek! But, terms of arts and sciences excepted, he might as well have maintained that they came from the Tamul. This Letter contains a full expose of the doctrines of the Methodists; and, for the time, was not contemptibly written.
Saturday, Aug. 7, he received a letter from the Leeds Conference, informing him that he was appointed for St. Austell Circuit, East Cornwall; a journey of nearly four hundred miles from Loddon, where he then was: and, with the appointment, a guinea was sent him to defray his expenses on the way! With this famous provision, he set off on horseback on Wednesday morning, Aug. 11; reached Bury St. Edmunds that night; the next day, Chelmsford; the third day London, where he stayed till the 16th: on the 18th he reached his old Circuit, Bradford; spent usefully several days in Trowbridge, Bradford, Shepton-Mallet, Alhampton, and West-Pennard; and at last reached St. Austell, on Saturday, 28th. This was a fatiguing journey: he generally rode between forty and fifty miles per diem; and as he had but a guinea and a half-crown when he set out, he seldom had more than one slight meal in the day, as the keep of his horse required nearly all his cash. A penny loaf served for breakfast and dinner: as to supper he was always obliged to take something at the places where he rested for the night; but that was, generally, a very light repast. These were times in which no man from secular motives, could take up the work of a traveling preacher; and times in which no man, who had not the life of God in his soul, and an ardent desire for the salvation of men, and a clear testimony of his own call to the work, could possibly continue in it.
In this Circuit, (Norwich) during about eleven months, he preached sermons, besides exhortations innumerable.