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sabbath, some in ale-houses, others at pitch-and-toss, fives, and other games ; some in gossiping near each others' cottages, sometimes quarrelling, generally cursing, swearing, talking obscenely, &c.; others employed that day in going from one farmer to another to look at and take jobs of work.
· Such as do go to church, the service being but once in the day, spend the other part of the day in the manner mentioned above. Nor do the farmers in general observe the sabbath any better than the poor ; their time is often taken up in shewing their cattle, sheep, hogs, &c., to butchers; in letting jobs of work ; in viewing the work that has been done in the week, or in pointing out what is to be done the week ensuing ; in visiting each other, and making merry, &c. Our churchyard is called the market. Here, before and after the service, they talk over the prices that their goods sold for in the week past, and what they intend to sell for the next week.
• I was also affected to see the children of the poor brought up in ignorance and vice. About four years since, I and a few of my neighbours began a Sunday and day school, yet we found that some could not be prevailed upon to send their children to it, and the few that do come are so corrupted by the wicked examples which are set them hy their parents, and other children, that very little good is so be expected from that quarter.
“ After much serious reflection on the general disregard of religion, and moral depravity, I resolved, if possible, to get some of Mr Wesley's preachers to come and preach to them. After having been separated from them between twenty and thirty years, and having laughed at and ridiculed them, you may suppose that my feelings on this occasion were not very! pleasant; but I knew that they had learned of their divine Master to return good for evil, and that they also went about doing good, and made it the grand business of their lives to warn sinners to fly from the
wrath to come; so that at last I went on to Thorn. bury and found out a gentleman who is a member of their small society there, and desired that the next preacher that came there would do me the favour of calling on me. On Saturday, the 1st of October 1803, Mr Ward, one of the preachers in the Dursley circuit, paid me a visit. To this excellent young man I communicated my concern for the stupid, poor unhappy wretches around me; and although he had to preach three times the next day, at nine in the morning and at half-past five in the evening at Thornbury, and at Elberton, three or four miles from Thornbury, at two; and although his health is so much impaired by preaching, that it was lately thought that he never would be able to preach more; yet this kind-hearted young man cheerfully agreed, and did preach on a common called Alvestone-Down, a quarter of a mile from my house, at eleven o'clock, to about sixty or seventy people, small and great. All were still and attentive. Mrs L. conversed with some of them afterwards, who expressed thankfulness for having heard a sermon that they could understand, as they said that they could not understand the sermons at cliurch, because there were so many fine words in them. Blessed be God, the poor have the gospel preached unto them in a way that they can understand, in a thousand places in England. And here also I cannot help remarking, that even while I was an infidel, I often regretted that the clergy did not adapt their discourses to the capacities of their hearers; as I have found that many of the farmers, and most of the poor, know very little of what they have ever heard preached in most of their parish churches. I am very confident that not one tenth part of country
ungregations are able to understand what they hear preached. What a pity it is that the clergy, particularly such as live in the country, do not, in their compositions, imitate the fine, plain language of the
common-prayer book! But to return from this dis gression.
“ That I should again hear a Methodist preacher under a hedge was matter of surprise ; but what was much more surprising, the preacher gave notice that there would be preaching in my house on the evening of the Friday se'nnight following. This affair has been, and is still, the subject of conversation for many miles around. Letters to various parts of England and Wales have spread this extraordinary news nearly through the kingdom. Perhaps you will be a little surprised when I inform you that Mrs L., on the evening before, went about three miles round part of the parish, calling at every cottage in her way, to inform them that a sermon would be preached on the down the next morning. With this information the poor people were much pleased, and promised her to be there. Mrs L. also attended the sermon. the first time she ever heard preaching out of a church. She was however much pleased to hear such an excellent discourse, an one so well adapted to the understandings of the hearers. Mr Ward, the preacher, is not quite three and twenty years of age, and if he continues to preach as much as he has done for three years past, I fear that he will not live to be much older. But he is so zealous in his Mas. ter's cause, so intent on bringing poor lost sinners to Christ, that he cares but little about his body. He is one of Madeley, where Mr Fletcher was vicar; and although he was not converted under his preaching, yet he appears to partake much of the same spirit that actuated that extraordinary servant of God. I also heard Mr Ward that day at nine o'clock in the morning, and at half-past five in the evening, in Mr Wesley's chapel in Thornbury. All his sermons were excellent; and I found it was good to be there.
“ I believe we should have had a much larger congregation on the down, had not about five hundred volunteers been at that time exercising about half a mile from where Mr Ward preached.
“ To break the sabbath seems to be a wrong way to conquer our enemies. Our churches are nearly empty at those times; as the people of all descriptions are drawn to the place of exercise. There, cakes, gingerbread, &c., are hawked about for sale ; so that it appears more like a fair day than the Lord's day.”
The next extract pithily adverts to certain benefits occasionally derivable from the labours of the Methodists, among the lowly and ignorant, which have been too obvious to be denied by the more candid even among their most zealous opponents :
“ Notwithstanding all that I have said against the Methodists in the Memoirs of my Life, an impartial observer may see, even from my own account, that those people were of very great benefit to me. The very great alteration which took place in my life after I first heard them preach must have been remarked. Before that time I was a thoughtless, careless, wicked, boy: from that hour I was totally changed. I then was anxious to learn to read, and it was not long before I constantly read ten chapters in the bible every day. I also read and learned hyinns and religious tracts. For about five years 1 lived a very religious life, but, through inexperience, I was overcome and carried away by the dissipated scenes of a contested election. After having lived a year in vice, by only once hearing Mr Wesley preach I was effectually prevailed upon to renounce my sinful practices, and was enabled to live in the fear of Gud. About two years after, I married a very pious woman of Mr Wesley's society; and in the midst of great affliction, which involved us in great poverty also, I was not only contented, but frequently experienced such a happiness in my mind, as often rose even to raptures. We had been married only about four years, when this excellent young woman died, in the full assurance of hope. Although during my wife's illness and death, I lay in a state that was thought to be past recovery, yet even in this situation I was so happy as even to astonish some who visited me.
“ The readers of my Life may also recollect that the Methodists visited me and my wife during this great affliction; and, my business being at a stand, (in consequence of my having no one to attend to my customers,) they lent me money to defray the expenses incurred during my long illness, and locked up my shop, to prevent me from being plundered of all I had. I might also mention many other favours that I received from them, which made me say in my Life, that they were in 'general a friendly honesthearted, sincere people.'
“I perhaps ought also to observe, that if I had never heard the Methodists preach, in all probability I should have been at this time a poor, ragged, dirty, cobler, peeping out from under a bulk with a snuffy nose and a long beard; for it was by their preaching that I was taught to call upon God for his grace to enable me to turn from my vicious course of life, and through which I became a real Christian. It was by their means also that I was excited to improve a little my intellectual faculties. It was through them that I got an amiable helpmate in iny first wife ; and she likewise will have reason to all eternity to remember the Methodists with gratitude, for having been the instruments of her conversion; for before she heard them preach she had not even the form of godliness, much less the power of it. It was also through them that I got the shop in which I first set up for a bookseller. It is very likely, that had I never heard these people, I should have now been an old drunken, debauched, fellow, like the generality of journeyman shoemakers ; and it is well known that many, very many, instances of the same kind might be adduced; great numbers by being connected with them have