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Kingswood school, that he might read to them the word of God, pray with them, and exhort them to continue in the ways of holiness. When Wesley left London, he appointed Mr. Maxfield to perform a similar duty in the society at Fetter Lane. From the exhorter to the preacher is but a single step; yet it does not appear that Mr. Maxfield contemplated taking that step. He was a sincere humble-minded Christian, anxious to do good, and to save souls. His services were very acceptable to the people, and multitudes flocked to hear him; whose deep and serious attention, and the urgent entreaties of Lady Huntingdon, induced him to persevere in his efforts, and at length to preach. His ministrations were greatly blessed by the Lord; many were brought to see their sinful condition, and to find pardon and peace through the merits of Jesus Christ. The preaching of Mr. Maxfield, however, gave great offence to several members of the society; who declared that he had usurped the sacred office, without being called to it; and represented to Mr. Wesley that it was an irregularity which should be instantly put down. He immediately hastened to London, and reached
mother's house, adjoining the foundry in the City Road, greatly displeased. His mother was a woman of genuine piety, clear understanding, and good sense. She had often heard Mr. Maxfield preach, and was fully persuaded, by the tokens of success, that Christ had called him to be his ambassador. She perceived that her son was displeased and irritated, and inquired the cause. He indignantly replied, “Why, Thomas Maxfield has turned preacher.” The old lady looked seriously at her son, and said, “John, 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.” He attended to the good advice of his mother, and after having heard him, he expressed his satisfaction, and gave him his sanction by saying, "It is the Lord ; let him do what seemeth him good.”
Shortly after this, David Taylor, a servant of Lady Huntingdon, a man of considerable natural talent, was converted by the preaching of the Methodists, and was deeply concerned for the welfare of those around him. “ He declared the riches of Christ first to his fellowservants, and then to his neighbours; and God crowned his efforts with great success. Lady Huntingdon had seen such good arising from lay agency, and from itinerancy, that she resolved to send her servant to the villages and hamlets in the vicinity of her mansion. The results of his labours induced her to extend the sphere of his operations, and to send him into the distant parts of Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, and Yorkshire. Many were attracted by curiosity to hear him, and came away deeply impressed with the truth. Mr. Samuel Deacon, of Ratby, a village about five miles from Leicester, celebrated for its encampment and springs, being informed while at work in the fields that David was about to preach in the village, immediately laid down his scythe, and went to hear him. The sermon made a lasting impression on his mind; he was led to see his guilt and danger, to read the Scriptures, and ultimately to find the peace and joy which spring from the conviction of forgiveness of sin. He afterwards began to publish the glad tidings of salvation; and for fifty-two years was the pastor of a small congregation in Barton-Fabis, Leicestershire. David Taylor was made eminently useful in the conversion of souls.
He greatly stimulated the faith of Mr. Bennett, a gentleman in Derbyshire, who was educated for the learned profession, and afterwards became a most zealous promulgator of the gospel. David Taylor continued the honoured servant of Lady Huntingdon, and resided under her roof. His noble mistress frequently sent him out on missionary tours speak to the benighted people; he often assisted Mr. Ingham, and preached with great success amongst his societies in Yorkshire.*
It was not long after this that John Nelson, that distinguished example of holy fervour, of Saxon vigour, and unyielding courage, was called to the field of action as a lay preacher. He was born at Birstal, near Leeds; and while employed in the building of Somerset House, London, was deeply impressed by the preaching of Wesley and Whitefield, and led to believe in Christ. On his return to his native place, he longed to impart the blessings he had received to his friends, whom he assembled at his house. The room was soon crowded ; and when his house could not contain those who flocked to him, he stood on his door-step in the evening, and talked about the way of salvation. Mr. Ingham heard him expound, and secured his services to exhort in hissocieties; which he did with surprising success. Lady Huntingdon, accompanied by Mr. Ingham and Mr. Graves, went to Birstal to hear this remarkable exhorter. After Mr. Ingham had addressed the assembled thousands, John Nelson rose, and spoke for half an hour, amidst the breathless silence of the audience. The countess was delighted, and, when parting, told him with her characteristic energy, that God had called him to the work, and would severely punish him if he grew weary
of it, and added, “He that called you is mighty to save; fear not, press forward; He will bless your testimony." John followed her advice, and pressed forward; he greatly extended his circuit, and preached in different parts of the county. Many were the difficulties and dangers he met with. Sometimes a fierce mob attacked him while preaching, and drove him and his congregation to some place of refuge; missiles and mud were thrown at him, and his life endangered by the violence of his enemies. The vicar of Birstal resolved to rid himself of this zealous preacher; and arranged that he should be pressed for a soldier. He was carried to Halifax before the commissioners, where the vicar was on the bench; and after vainly remonstrating, was marched off to Bradford, and thrust into a dungeon, for the sole crime of being anxious for God's glory, and the good of mankind. His courage did not for one moment forsake him; friends brought him candles, meat, and water, and sang outside the prison the hymn he was singing within ; and his wife came and shouted to him through the key-hole, “Fear not, but trust in God." The indignities he suffered on his way to York were of the most barbarous kind; and wherever he staid for the night, vast crowds came to see him through the grated windows of his gaol. Soon after his arrival at York, he was brought before the court; and when the indictment was read, the only charge preferred was, “ This is the Methodist preacher, and he refuses to take the service money.” No threat could induce him to take the king's coin ; and he bore his arms and accoutrements as a cross he was com
* The Coronet and the Cross.
pelled to take up. He still, however, preached, prayed in his red jacket, and distributed Wesley's little books, with as much zeal as ever ; for which he was cursed by the ensign of his company, and thrust into prison.*
In a few days, however, he was set at liberty, and went on hewing stones and preaching salvation, many being the seals which God set to his fervent and powerful ministry. Afterwards Nelson was fully devoted to the spiritual work, and laboured with great
Let us here step aside, and gather an instance of an eminent lay preacher, Captain Scott, converted under the plain but searching ministry of the devout Romaine, who, though a church clergyman, greatly encouraged this zealous servant of God in proclaiming the everlasting gospel of the blessed God. In the hall of Lady Huntingdon, Romaine was preaching on one occasion from the words, “ I am the way," when Captain Scott was present. The message was exactly suited to the case of the soldier ; and God, who in his good providence had brought him to hear it, by the power of his grace made it effectual to the salvation of his soul. From that time commenced the happy change, for which hundreds, who have been called under his ministry, have had reason to bless God. He retained his military profession, though his altered conduct exposed him to many annoyances in the army. As he was marching through Leicester with his regiment, he opened his commission as a minister of the Lord Jesus; and wherever he was stationed, he boldly preached the gospel in his regimentals. Whitefield invited him to his London pulpits, “to bring his artillery to Tabernacle rampart, and try what execution he can do here."
Romaine greatly encouraged ħim to persevere in his course, and advised him to accept the invitation of Whitefield. A tremendous storm of thunder and lightning burst over him as he entered London ; which he regarded as an indication of the divine displeasure. He, however, came to the Tabernacle, where an immense crowd was assembled to hear the redcoated preacher. The sight of the vast audience completely unnerved him ; his utterance failed ; his tears flowed fast; and it was some time before he could recover himself. At length he became composed; and preached with such power and acceptance, that for twenty years he was one of the most popular supplies at the chapel. After a while, he sold his commission, quitted the service of the King for that of Christ, and became a burning and a shining light.f Here a long catalogue of names might be given, but our limited space forbids. They were of the same stamp. They had not graduated in colleges, but they had learned profoundly in the school of Christ. They were not acquainted with the classics and mathematics, but they were truly and deeply learned in the experimental knowledge of salvation. They were invested with no episcopal ordination, but they had a commission from heaven. They were sent of God; they were anointed with a divine unction, and they were clothed with power. We value learning, and we respect a lawful authority, but they are nothing compared with the high and holy qualifications of these holy men.
These instances serve but to show how the revival called Methodism spontaneously provided its agents and labourers, and how God graciously owned the conjoint labours of the regular ministry and of lay agency, causing them to act and re-act on each other in the multiplication of mutual blessedness. Sometimes an earnest lay preacher springs from the labours of an ordained minister, and sometimes an ordained pastor is the result of the plain, simple ministry of a lay preacher. In either case and in both, God is glorified, the truth is spread, and souls are saved.
* The Coronet and the Cross.
While lay preaching was conjoined with the regular ministry in the general diffusion of Methodism, it was often made the sole agency for introducing it into neglected districts, and has been a most important means of perpetuating it, especially in the numerous villages and hamlets of Britain. How often when a devout and humble lay preacher has changed his residence to some part where Methodism had no existence, has he introduced it there. His first concern, after placing his furniture in his new abode, has been to set up an altar and a tabernacle for God, by opening his house, or fitting up his workshop or his barn for worship; and then, beginning the work of evangelization there by lifting up his own voice, has formed a class which has become the nucleus of a flourishing society, which has ere long expanded and strengthened until it became the head of a circuit, and the centre of a wide sphere of operations. It would be an interesting task to trace how in this way Methodism often struck its roots in distant soils, and became ramified through the length and breadth of the land. Much, indeed, was done by the direct missionary exertions of the “Round-preacher," as he scoured counties, with his faithful pony and indispensable saddlebags, in his monthly excursions. But much was also accomplished in the extension of the cause by the colonization of the local preacher ; for he blew his ram's horn in every new locality where Providence cast his lot; and often became the pioneer to a fresh district or continent whither the circuit preacher followed, and found at once a home, a welcome, a praying people, and a prosperous field of exertion.
It was thus that Methodism was extended so early to America and the West Indies. Some time prior to 1766, Philip Embury, a local preacher, and a batch of emigrant Methodists had landed at New York. But they, alas, had so far given up their profession, as to become cardplayers, when another family arrived from Ireland, amongst whom was “a mother in Israel,” to whose zeal in the cause of God they were all indebted for the revival of the spirit of piety amongst them. Soon after their arrival, this good woman ascertained that those who had preceded her had so far departed from their “first love,” as to be mingling in the frivolities and sinful amusements of life. The knowledge of this painful fact aroused her indignation, and, with a zeal which deserves commemoration, she suddenly entered the room where they were assembled, seized the pack of cards with which they were playing, and threw them into the fire. Addressing Embury, she said, “ You must preach to us, or we shall all go to hell together, and God will require our blood at your hands.” He tremblingly replied, “ I cannot preach, for I have neither a house nor a congregation.”
66 Preach in your own house first, and to our own company," was the reply. Feeling the responsibility of his situation, and not being able any longer to resist the importunities of his reprover, he consented to comply with her request; and, accordingly, preached his first sermon in his own
hired house, to five persons only. This, it is believed, was the first Methodist sermon ever preached in America. From this time they gradually gathered strength, till they were able to rent a room in the neighbourhood, of larger dimensions. Here they assembled for mutual edification, Mr. Embury continuing to lead their devotions, and to expound to them the word of God.
Soon after this, Captain Webb, who almost immediately after his conversion became a lay preacher, and after preaching the gospel with great zeal and success in Winchester, Devizes, and other parts of England, landed in America, and joined the little band at New York. His rank in life, his military costume-in which it seems he preached -his dauntless resolution, his fervent spirit, would, in a thoughtless and dissipated population, succeed much more in arousing attention than regular ministrations, however plain or eloquent. Accordingly, his preaching “ drew many to the place of worship; and the room where they assembled soon me too small to accommodate all who wished to hear. Sinners were awakened and converted to God, and added to the society. These, continuing to walk in the fellowship of the Holy Ghost,' were much strengthened and comforted; while others, who beheld their godly conversation, were convinced of the power and excellence of their religion.”+ It was not long before a good-sized chapel was erccted, called after the venerable founder of Methodism “WESLEY CHAPEL,” and crowds attended the ministry of the earnest but simple-minded lay preachers.
Many months did not clapse before the work extended to Long Island, where Captain Webb fixed his abode. Here and in New York he continued his labours with great success. “He preached in various places in Long Island, produced great awakening amongst the people, and prepared the way for the formation of societies. His love to the Saviour and the souls of men carried him to Philadelphia, and he became the means of laying the foundation of a great work of God in the famous Quaker city.
“ Much about the time these things were taking place, another agent from Ireland, Robert Strawbridge, began to preach in Maryland with equal success. He settled, it seems, in Frederick County in that State, and at first commenced preaching in his own house. These labours were soon enlarged, and, like his contemporaries in the work, he extended his evangelical exertions to various parts of the country around. The success attendant on these efforts obliged our evangelist to turn his attention to the erection of a place of worship, which he accomplished at Pipe Creek, and which passed under the name of “ The log meeting-house.' This first Methodist place of worship in Maryland became famous in its history, and several of the early Conferences were held within its log' walls.
“It was in the midst of these first and desultory labours of Mr. Strawbridge, that one of the earliest and most eminent of the native American ministers became acquainted with the way of salvation. FREEBORN GARRETSON met with Mr. Strawbridge at a friend's house in his own neighbourhood; and this incident seems to be the first link in a chain
* Dr. Bang's History of America, vol. i. pp. 47, 48.