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otherwise; and nothing was more common among them than to hear the major part exclaiming against themselves, and declaring that they were the most vile abandoned wretches on this side hell, that they wondered why the earth did not open and swallow them up alive. But they generally added, that “the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin,” and that “where sin abounded there would grace much more abound.” Indeed it was easy to remark, that the reason why they painted themselves in such odious colours, was only to boast of an astonishing quantity of grace that God had bestowed on them, in thus pardoning all their abominations, and numbering them with the household of faith who ought to have been shut up in the nethermost hell. The greater the sinner (say they) the greater the saint. To each of these the leader gave a word of comfort, or of correction, in the best manner he was able. They then sang and prayed again. This lasted about one hour. And every one in Mr Wesley's connection did or was expected to meet, each in his own class once in a week. In these classes each made a weekly contribution towards the general support of the preachers, &c. Such as were very poor contributed a penny per week, others twopence, and some who could afford it six-pence. This money was entered in a book kept for that purpose, and one in every class, called the steward, had the care of the cash.
I now come to speak of the bands, which consisted only of justified persons; that is, such as had received the assurance of their sins being pardoned. In the classes, both the awakened (as they call them) and the justified, and even those that were made perfect, met all together, as did the married and the single, and often men and women. But none were admitted into any band but such as were at least in a justified state, and the married of each sex met by themselves, and the single by themselves. About ten was the number generally put in one band; all these must belong to
and meet in some class once a week, when not hindered by sickness, &c., and they were also to meet weekly in their band. When met, they first sang, then made a short prayer ; that done, the band-leader informed them of the state of his mind during the last week, &c. He then made inquiry into the state of all present, and each related what had passed since they last met; as what visitations they had received from God, what temptations from the devil, the flesh, &c. And it is a maxim amongst them that exposing to one another what the devil has particularly tempted them to commit, will make the old fellow more careful how he tempts, when he knows that all his secrets will be told the next meeting. This they call shaming the devil. In the classes they only confessed in general terms, that they have been tempted by the world, the flesh, and the devil. But in the bands they con. fessed the particular sins which they had been tempted to commit, or had actually committed.
The last time I met in band was in London, where an old man (near seventy years of age) informed us that he had for several weeks together laboured under a very grievous temptation of the devil, who all this time had been constantly tempting him to commit adultery; he farther informed us, that having let too much of his house to lodgers, they were obliged to put the maid's bed in the room where he and his wife slept; and that one morning he had seen the maid lying asleep, nearly or quite uncovered, and he again assured us, that ever since that time the devil had been tempting him to do that which was naught with the maid. I could not help thinking that the old gentleman was right in charging it on the devil, as there was little reason to think it was any temptation of the flesh. Permit me to add, that this old buck had a wife about half his own age. I have been informed, that some young men of the brotherhood have at times disguised themselves in women's clothes, and have so got into the women's bands ; it may be very
curious to hear the confessions of the holy sisters. By this time I suppose you have had enough of bandmeetings.
Mr Wesley instituted another kind of private meeting for the highest order of his people, called the select bands; to which none were admitted but such as were sanctified, or made perfect in love, and freed from all the remains of sin. But as I never professed perfection, I was not permitted to enter into this holy of holies. But I have known a great number of these perfect saints, of both sexes; and I also lived in the same house a whole year with one of these entire holy sisters. A few days before I came to live in Chiswell street, one of these perfect sisters was detected in stealing coals out of the shed of one of the sanctified brothers; but she, like the old fellow above mentioned, said it was the devil that tempted her to do it.
Four times every year new tickets are distributed to all Mr Wesley's people throughout the three kingdoms. Their ticket is a very small slip of paper, with a text of scripture on it, which is exchanged every quarter for some other text. Such as are only in a class, have a different text from such as are in a band, so that no one can be admitted into a general meeting of the bands, appointed by any of the preachers when he intends to give them an exhortation, nor into any particular band, by a common society ticket. On the common tickets are such texts as these : “Now is the accepted time.”—“Awake thou that sleepest,” and such like. But those for the bands are in a higher strain ; as,
“ Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.
.”—“Go on unto perfection.”—“Ye are chil. dren of the light.”—“Your bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost ;' and other texts of a similar tendency. For these tickets each poor person paid one shilling, such as were rich paid more; indeed the money seemed the principal end of issuing tickets, at least in country places, the members in the community being
so well known to each other, that they scarcely ever showed their tickets in order to gain admittance. I forgot to inform you that prayer-meetings, classmeetings, band-meetings, &c., were in general held in private houses, belonging to some of the brethren.
I am, dear friend, yours.
« Stiff in opinion, always in the wrong ;
“ Then all for women, panting, rhiming, drinking,
DEAR FRIEND, You now see what sort of a society I was got into. In country places particularly, they consist of farmers, husbandmen, shoemakers, woolcombers, weavers, their wives, &c. I have heard Mr Wesley remark that more women are converted than men; and I believe that by far the greatest part of his people are females; and not a few of them sour, disappointed old maids, with some others of a less prudish dis. position,
“ Who, grown unfit for carnal bliss,
Long to taste how spirits kiss." Lavater in his essay on Physiognomy says, “Women sink into the most incurable melancholy, as they also rise to the most enraptured heights." In ans other place he says, “ By the irritability of their nerves, their incapability for deep inquiry and firm decision, they may easily, from their extreme sènsi
bility, become the most irreclaimable, the most raptu. rous enthusiasts."
“ There is,” says Mr Hume,“ only one subject on which I am apt to distrust the judgment of females : and that is, concerning books of gallantry and devotion, which they commonly affect as high-flown as possible; and most of them seem more delighted with the warmth than with the justness of the passion. I mention gallantry and devotion as the same subject; because, in reality, they become the same when treated in this manner; and we may observe, that they both depend on the very same complexion ; as the fair sex have a great share of the tender and amorous disposition, it perverts their judgment on this occasion, and makes them be easily affected, even in what has no propriety in the expressions, nor nature in the sentiment. Mr Addison's elegant discourses of religion have no relish with them, in.com. parison to books of mystic devotion: and Otway's fine tragedies are rejected for the rant of Mr Dryden.
There are thousands in this society who will never read anything besides the bible, and books published by Mr Wesley. For several years I read very little else, nor would I go (at least very seldom) to any other place of worship; so that instead of hearing the sensible and learned preachers of Taunton, I would often go four, five, or six miles, to some country vil. lage, to hear an inspired husbandman, shoemaker, hlacksmith, or woolcomber; and frequently in frost and snow have I risen a little after midnight (not knowing what time of night it was) and have wandered about the town until five o'clock, when the preaching began ; where I have often heard a sermon preached to not more than ten or a dozen people. But such of us as did attend at this early hour, used afterwards to congratulate each other on the great privilege we enjoyed; then off we went to our work shiver. ing with cold.
I was first converted to Methodism when I was