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rejoined, “John, you know what my sentiments have been; you . cannot suspect me of favoring readily any thing of this kind; • but take care what you do with respect to that
young man, for he is as surely called of God to preach as you are. Examine what • have been the fruits of his preaching, and hear him also yourself.' The advice was taken, and so complete was the satisfaction of Wesley, that he exclaimed, · It is the Lord; let him do • what seemeth Him good.' Thus was the prejudice of the priest mastered, by the power with which the disciple spake.
The legal position of the Methodists as a body of dissenters, was forced on them by the rude violence with which their persons and property were assailed. In conformity with the ecclesiastical prepossessions of their leaders, they shrunk from availing themselves of the provisions of the Toleration Act, lest they should thereby be identified with the Dissenting communities. But the folly of their enemies, by leaving them no alternative, overcame their scruples. The immediate occasion of their seeking the protection of this statute, was the rebellion of 1745. Though their loyalty was undoubted by the government, base attempts were made by their enemies to raise popular clamor against them. They were represented by the clergy and others as concealed Papists, and were affirmed to be in correspondence with the Pretender. In consequence of these rumours, many of their assemblies were broken in upon, their persons were rudely assaulted, and the edifices in which they worshipped were threatened with destruction.
• Mr. Charles Wesley was more seriously incommoded by the imputation of disloyalty than his brother, or Lady Huntingdon. When he was itinerating in Yorkshire, an accusation was laid against him of having spoken treasonable words, and witnesses were summoned before the Magistrates at Wakefield to depose against him. Fortunately for him, he learnt this in time to present himself, and confront the witnesses. He had prayed that the Lord would call home his banished ones; and this the accusers construed, in good faith, to mean the Pretender. The words would have had that meaning from the mouth of a Jacobite. But Charles Wesley, with perfect sincerity, disclaimed any such intention. 'I had no thought," he said, 'of praying for the Pretender, but for those who confess themselves strangers and pilgrims upon earth,—who seek a country, knowing this is not their home, You, Sir,' he added, addressing himself to a clergyman upon the bench: · You, Sir, know that the Scriptures speak of us as captive exiles, who are absent from the Lord while present in the body. We are not at home till we are in heaven.' The magistrates were men of sense ; they perceived that he explained himself clearly—that his declarations were frank and unequivocal, and they avowed themselves perfectly satisfied.
• These aspersions aggravated the odium under which the Methodists were now laboring. Every Sunday,' says Charles Wesley, damna. tion is denounced against all who hear us; for we are Papists, Jesuists, seducers, and bringers in of the Pretender. The clergy murmur aloud at the number of communicants, and threaten to repel them. He was himself repelled at Bristol, with circumstances of indecent violence. In many places they were exposed to the insults of the rude mob, who had not yet forgotten the art of disturbing conventicles, nor entirely lost the relish of those delights which they enjoyed, when terrifying the women and children whom they found in those assemblies. It therefore, became necessary for the Methodists, either to endure all the injuries which the nonconformists suffered, when they were considered as outlaws, or to contradict their solemn professions of indissoluble union with the Established Church, by classing themselves with Dissenters, taking refuge under the Toleration Act, registering their places of worship, and licensing their preachers, as that Act required. They were not so in love either with persecution, or the Church of England, as to hesitate long between the unequal alternatives ; but instantly became Dissenters in the eye of the law, in order to become Christians according to the dictates of conscience.
It was, indeed, a curious phenomenon to behold a whole host of persons, who rejected the name of Dissenters as an unfounded calumny, who professed themselves the truest sons of the Church ; attached to her doctrines, ceremonies, and hierarchy; many of whom retained, even in their places of meeting, her liturgy and vestments, and who still communicated at her altars; yet resorting for protection to an Act passed to exempt persons dissenting from the Church of England from certain pains and penalties.' Had they professed to dissent, it would have been a question whether the Toleration Act could have afforded them legal protection ; for neither this, nor any other law, could be intended to provide for all possible futurity, and to gather under its wing every sect, of whatever principles and practices, which might arise in the revolution of ages. But when the Methodists declared they were not Dissenters, how could they claim the advantage of an Act made to protect persons dissenting from the Church of England from the penalties of certain laws?
• The politic conduct of the government, in choosing rather to give a large and liberal interpretation to the Toleration Act, than to run the hazard of introducing another, was a grand step in the progress of religious liberty ; for it converted this law into a much more extensive and mighty blessing than it was ever designed to be.'—Ib. pp. 68, 69.
While referring to the persecution endured by these devoted men, the case of John Nelson may be appropriately introduced. This excellent man was greatly instrumental in enlarging the pale of Methodism in Yorkshire, and became in consequence an object of bitter hatred to his irreligious neighbours. The following narrative of his treatment presents the common features of religious persecution :-unrelenting hatred on the one hand, and unbending integrity on the other. The conduct of his wife is especially de
serving of notice, and displays the highest traits of moral heroism. When will the world learn to estimate men rightly?
• The vicar of Birstal, which was John Nelson's home and head. quarters, thought it justifiable to rid the parish, by any means, of a man who preached with more zeal and more effect than himself; and he readily consented to a proposal from the alehouse-keepers, that Nelson should be pressed for a soldier, a custom then too horribly prevalent, as the pressing of sailors was at a much later period; for as fast as he made converts they lost customers. He was pressed accordingly, and taken before the commissioners at Halifax, where the vicar was one of the bench; and though persons enough attended to speak to his character, the commissioners said they had heard enough of him from the minister of his parish, and could hear nothing more. So, gentlemen, (said Nelson,) I see there is neither law nor justice for a man that is called a Methodist ;' and addressing the vicar by his name he said, What do you know of me that is evil? Whom have I defrauded ? or where have I contracted a debt that I cannot pay ?' • You have no visible means of getting your living,' was the reply. He answered, “I am as able to get my living with my hands as any man of my trade in England is, and you know it.' But all remonstrances were in vain ; he was marched off to Bradford, and there, by order of the commissioners, put in the dungeon, where there was not even a stone to sit on.
‘John Nelson had as high a spirit and as brave a heart as ever Englishman was blessed with, and he was encouraged by the good offices of many zealous friends, and the sympathy of some to whom he was a stranger. A soldier had offered security for him, and an inhabitant of Bradford, though an enemy to the Methodists, had, from mere feelings of humanity, offered to give security for him if he might be allowed to lie in a bed. His friends brought him candles, and meat, and water, which they put through a hole in the door, and they sang hymns till a late hour in the night-they without and he within. A poor fellow was with him in this miserable place who might have been starved if Nelson's friends had not brought food for him also. At four in the morning his wife, who had protited by her husband's lessons, came to the prison-door, and, instead of bewailing for him and herself, said to him through the keyhole :
" Fear not; the cause is God's for which you are here, and he will plead it himself: therefore be not concerned about me and the children, for he that feeds the young ravens will be mindful of us. He will give you strength for your day, and after we have suffered a while he will perfect that which is lacking in our souls, and then bring us where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest.'
Early in the morning he was marched under a guard to Leeds ; the other pressed men were ordered to the alehouse, but he was sent to prison, and there he thought of the poor pilgrims who were arrested in their progress ; for the people came in crowds and looked at him through the iron grate: some pitied and others reviled him. The
gaolar admitted his friends to see him, and a bed was sent to him by some compassionate person, when he must otherwise have slept upon damp straw.
• On the following day he was marched to York:
• We were guarded through the city, (he says,) but it was as if hell were moved from beneath to meet me at my coming. The streets and windows were filled with people, who shouted and huzzaed as if I had been one that had laid waste the nation. But the Lord made my brow like brass, so that I could look upon them as grasshoppers, and pass through the city as if there had been none in it but God and myself.
• Lots were cast for him at the guard-house, and when it was thus determined which captain should have him, he was offered money, which he refused to take, and for this they bade the serjeant handcuff him and send him to prison. The handcuffs were not put on, but he was kept three days in prison, where he preached to the poor reprobates among whom he was thrown; and, wretches as they were, ignorant of all that was good, and abandoned to all that was evil, the intrepidity of the man who reproved them for their blasphemies, and the sound reason which appeared amidst all the enthusiasm of his discourse were not without effect. Strangers brought him food ; his wife also followed him here, and encouraged him to go on and suffer every thing bravely for conscience' sake. On the third day a court-martial was held, and he was guarded to it by a file of musketeers with their bayonets fixed. When the court asked · What is this man's crime?' the answer was, ' This is the Methodist preacher, and he refuses to take money. Upon which they turned to him and said, “Sir, you need not find fault with us, for we must obey our orders, which are to make you act as a soldier; you are delivered to us, and if you have not justice done you, we cannot help it.' When Nelson plainly told them he would not fight because it was against his way of thinking, and when he again refused the money, which by their bidding was offered to him, they told him that if he ran away he would be just as liable to suffer as if he had taken it. He replied, 'If I cannot be discharged lawfully I shall not run away ; if I do, punish me as you please.' He was then sent to his quarters, where his arms and accoutrements were brought to him and put on. Why do you gird me,' said he, with these warlike habiliments ? I am a man averse to war, and shall not fight but under the Prince of Peace, the Captain of my salvation; the weapons he gives me are not carnal like these.' He must bear these, they told him, till he could get his discharge. To this he made answer, that he would bear them as a cross, and use them as far as he could without defiling his conscience, which he would not do for any man on earth.
* There was a spirit in all this which, when it had ceased to excite ridicule from his comrades, obtained respect. He had as good oppor. tunities of exhorting and preaching as he could desire ; be distributed also the little books which Mr. Wesley had printed to explain and vindicate the tenets of the Methodists, and was as actively employed in the cause to which he had devoted himself as if he had been his own
master. At last the ensign of his company sent for him, and, accosting him with an execration, swore he would have no preaching nor praying in the regiment. Then, sir,' said John, you ought to have no swearing nor cursing either, for sure I have as much right to pray and preach as you have to curse and swear.' Upon this the brutal ensign swore that he should be flogged for what he had done. Let God look to that,' was the resolute man's reply; the cause is his ; but if you do not leave off cursing and swearing it will be worse with you than with me.' The ensign then bade the corporal put that fellow in prison directly, and when the corporal said he must not carry a man to prison unless he gave in his crime with him, he told him it was for disobeying orders. To prison, therefore, Nelson was taken, to his heart's content, and after eight-and-forty hours' confinement was brought before the major, who asked him what he had been put in confinement for. For warning people to flee from the wrath to come,' he replied ; and if that be a crime I shall commit it again, unless you cut my tongue out; for it is better to die than disobey God.' The major told him, if that were all it was no crime; when he had done his duty he might preach as much as he liked, but he must make no mobs. And then, wishing all men were like him, he dismissed him to his quarters.
· Lady Huntingdon exerted all her influence to obtain his discharge. By means of her acquaintance with Judith, Dowager Countess of Sunderland, she obtained an interview with her step-son, Charles, fourth Earl of Sunderland, afterwards Duke of Marlborough, who had a short time before been promoted to the rank of brigadier-general of his Majesty's forces. On a faithful representation of the case, his lordship assured Lady Huntingdon that those for whom she had interested herself should be set at liberty in a few days. This intelligence was communicated to Nelson by Mr. Charles Wesley, while her ladyship wrote to inform Mr. Ingham, who had taken an active part in procuring his enlargement, of the success of her application.
On the 28th of July, John Nelson was set at liberty, and the day after his release from captivity he preached at Newcastle. panion, Thomas Beard, who had been pressed for the same reason, would probably have been discharged also, but the consequence of his cruel and illegal impressment had cost him his life. He was seized with a fever, the effect of fatigue and agitation of mind; after venisection ill performed, the lancet wound in his arm festered and mortified ; the limb was amputated, and he died soon after the operation !
255_259. The Welsh magistrates exceeded even those of England in the bitterness of their proceedings against the Methodists. The gentlemen in part of Brecknockshire and Carmarthenshire,' says Howell Harris, hunt us like partridges ; but still the work pros'pers. The old spirit of the cavalier faction was now as rife as ever, and found a befitting and thorough-going disciple in Sir Watkin Williams Wynn. The intemperate conduct of this magistrate was at length represented to the government, and he was ordered to return the fines he had exacted from his