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incredible; which indeed none could have performed, had he not combined a frame of iron with an unbending will. A chance word, dropped in conversation with a casual passenger; a remark, shot from one of his innumerable sermons, striking an individual,—led to questions, intercourse, and intimacy, which Wesley followed out, as if he had no one else in the world to think of. At the call of an inquirer, or the summons of a penitent, he thought nothing of stopping his work at Bristol,* and travelling on an errand of mercy to London. Two or three convicts, labouring under religious anxiety, would make him diverge from his route from London, and turn aside to Reading; the call of a fellowlabourer hurried him to Wales. From Bristol we find him passing to Malmesbury, then to Oxford ; two days after he re-appears in London. A dying convert asks his presence in Leicestershire; as he is hurrying to see him, he meets on the roads of Bucks, a stranger, with whom he engages in discussion; and, intent on inducing him to embrace his convictions, he holds fast by him, till their horses' feet rattle on the pavement of Northampton. Now we hear of him in Yorkshire, preaching, warning, comforting. On Sunday, the bright eye, alert figure, and penetrating look are noticed at Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Sabbath crowds are startled by hearing the hundredth Psalm raised in the Sandgate. The evening falls on a multitude swarming from the top to the foot of the hill near the Tyne, where Wesley,
Journal, i. 246.
calm and collected, proclaims his messages of warning and comfort to a rude audience that had heard, till then, little of Christianity. Punctual as he is rapid, neither words nor entreaties, nor friends nor foes can stop him, and make him break an appointment. He starts from the smoke of Newcastle to keep an engagement at Bristol.
While he rides (for all his journeys, for many years, were made on horseback) he finds or makes an occasion of influence, and drops a word. Now a conversation at Knaresborough leads to further enquiry, and the family invite him on his return to visit them. Then he visits a clergyman to remove his doubts. Now he is in the house of a tradesman, engaged in a discussion ; and now, on a Yorkshire moor, addressing a crowd; then on the highway preaching to the wayfarers. In the church where his father ministered, or, when shut out of that, on the tomb-stone over his remains, he preaches; here he is in the pulpit of a friend, there he is hooted and insulted in the street. At Sheffield he addresses a swarming audience; the same evening he sits, comforting a poor widow, as if city crowds had no place in his mind. We find him preaching in the market-place at Stroud, on the common at Hampton, among the poetic associations of Stratford, in the wealth of the vale of Evesham, among the miners of Cardiff, and under the black chimneys of Bristol.
Here he rouses a scoffer, or comforts a mourner, or puts down an upstart, or settles a quarrel. Now one of his Societies delights him with the picture of its har
mony, while another engrosses him with its brawls. Yet in the one case as in the other, in storm as in calm, to the bed-ridden sick, or to the agitated crowd, he is always the same. Full of eagerness, yet perfectly calm, self-possessed, though enthusiastic; bearing a heart glowing with fervent warmth, a temper serene as a summer evening. One of his days would supply to an ordinary man the work of a week. One week of his would exhaust the strength of active men. He attends, on a Sunday morning and afternoon, the services of the Church, preaches to three audiences at three different hamlets, and returns to conclude the day in one of his social services, in thanksgiving and prayer.
Fifteen sermons he preached in one week, in places distant from each other, reached (as they only could be reached) on horseback, over roads on which a turnpike and the hand of Mac Adam was unknown. By ways marked only by ruts,* where morass struggled with mire, at times a broken causeway, at times a path impassable from snow, he drags his way on horseback, drenched, chilled, bespattered, in all seasons, through all weathers, and all hours of night and day. Hardly does he condescend to notice these inconveniences, and then only when, benighted and drenched to the skin, he is delayed on the road beyond his reckoning, and is not able to keep an appointment. But if Wesley had physical obstacles of no slight sort to conquer, he met with others harder to bear. * Journal, i. 440.
+ Ibid. ii. 457.
THE RECEPTION OF THE MISSION.
The state of England, when Wesley appeared as a Reformer, was notable. The nation had made progress in population and wealth. The growth of the monied interest measured its progress in trade. The increase and number of towns attested its rising population. There was an advance also in national intelligence, though not such as to embrace the masses. But wealth is selfish, prosperity is heedless, and the middle and upper classes are apt to spend little thought on matters which do not directly touch themselves. Though it was an age in which Parliamentary discussions were strong, and debates had assumed importance, some of the grossest public abuses grew up unchecked. Our prisons were styes of filth and suffering; ignorance, brutality, and intemperance, covered, like a leprosy, the peasantry.
If men looked for a remedy to the Church, the Church was helpless : in part from its own defects,
somewhat from ours.
Plundered at the Reformation, many of its endowments had passed to the laity. For a large body of the clergy there was a wretched provision. Without houses, or stipends, without the hope of bettering themselves, no wonder that it was only the refuse of the higher class that dropped sullenly into the Church. Many took to it, because they were too lazy to work, many because they were not fit for anything. In the Church they eked out a living in ways more easy than creditable: farming, labour, handicraft, were a resource: others took a fouler road, and hung on the rich, panders to their vices and follies. Wesley * found some boozing in taverns; the hunting-field and the Squire's parlour were places far above their hopes : the ale-house and the tap-room were their favourite haunts. Little service could be expected from such men ;- little was got. Those who escaped scandal, did not rise to usefulness. With the exception of a few clergymen drawn to towns, or niched in family livings, the mass of the rural clergy in the days of Anne, George I., and George II., grovelled in the habits of a coarse sensuality. They were content to sail with the stream, and a dirty stream it was, down which English society was floating; little sense of religion was there, and as little of morality.
There needed at such a time a bold reformation ; a movement, which should rouse society from its lethargy,
* Journal, i. p. 453.