NO leader of a great religious movement was ever more happy in his helpers than Wesley. It would be hard Indeed to find a finer band of men than the early Methodist preachers. They generally travelled their circuits mounted on horseback, with saddle-bags, containing their scanty wardrobe and a stock of Methodist books for sale in the Societies. The horse was scarcely less important than his master in days when the preacher’s “round,” or circuit, sometimes embraced a county or two. For a quarter of a century Thomas Olivers rode one horse that a friend purchased for five pounds and gave to him when he went to his first circuit. He travelled comfortably upon it not less than a hundred thousand miles. This, however, was a model horse, “such another as, in many respects, none of my brethren could ever boast of.” * John Pritchard was less fortunate. His horse became sick, and the poor itinerant had to travel on foot during one winter and spring about twelve hundred miles.t The early minutes, which may be said to contain the “whole duty of a Methodist preacher,” do not forget one cardinal point. It is asked in 1765, “Are all the preachers merciful to their beasts” “Perhaps not. Every one ought—i. Never to ride hard. 2. To see with his own eyes his horse rubbed, fed, and bedded.”
Wesley’s first preachers had a daily baptism of privation and persecution. Mob and magistrate conspired to drive them out of the towns and villages where they came to labour. One of Wesley’s itinerants wrote to him in October, 1744, about the violence of the Cornish mob, and informed him that Mr. Westall had been committed to the House of Correction at Bodmin as a vagrant. “I pray you,” says Wesley, “for what pay could we procure men; to do this service to be always ready to go to prison, or to death” Nelson, Maxfield, and others were pressed as soldiers. Thomas Mitchell was thrown repeatedly into a deep pond till he was insensible; then his clothes were covered with paint. These pioneers of Methodism had a hard and long struggle with the mob. Even after Wesley’s position and character had begun to command general respect his humble itinerants had to face much rough usage; but they were true heroes, who counted all troubles light in order to win men for Christ.
In addition to all other privations, the early preachers. had a long struggle with poverty. John Downes’ widow had only one sixpence in the world at the time of her husband’s death; John Jones’ clothes scarcely sufficed to pay the thirty-seven and threepence which his modest funeral cost. At first the circuits provided for any preacher who laboured among them. His wife, if he had one, was without any provision. Four shillings a week• was the sum afterwards allowed for a wife, with a sovereign~ per quarter for each child. When the husband was at home eighteen-pence a day was allowed for his board, a deduction being made if he went out for a meal.
In 1752 it was arranged that the preachers should receive stipends of twelve pounds a year, in order to provide themselves with clothes, etc. Board and lodging was found by the Societies. “Two meals and horse one night, is.,” an entry in the accounts of “The Dales” circuit, shows the average cost of entertainment. Up to this time the stewards of the various Societies provided the preachers with what they needed, and sometimes gave them a trifle t for travelling expenses. Ten years after this date, however, we find that Thomas Taylor, then stationed in Wales, had neither quarterage nor travelling expenses. He was generally entertained by the friends. Sometimes a shilling or half a crown was put into his hand. Fortunately he had a little money of his own, on which he drew for expenses. His horse, with its saddle and other equipments, cost him nine pounds. Some of the first preachers supported themselves by the labour of their own hands; others married wives with property, or, like Taylor, had a little stock of their own. By the year 1763 what is called “a competent provision” had been made for the preachers’ wives and a weekly allowance for their little children. Kingswood School provided education and clothing for the elder boys. Out of the collection for the school some money allowance was also made to a few sons and daughters of the preachers. The failure of many circuits to raise the usual allowance for the preachers wives threw such a heavy burden on the Contingent Fund that in 1788 Wesley made a special appeal to the Societies to provide for those who laboured among them. The Contingent Fund was raised by a yearly collection in the classes to meet law expenses and reduce chapel debts, etc. The year after this appeal the call upon it was reduced from nine hundred and three pounds to five hundred and sixty-eight, but the relief was temporary. In 1790 it rose to one thousand pounds.
The school for preachers’ sons at Kingswood was one of Wesley’s favourite institutions. In 1739 the foundation of a school for the colliers’ children had been laid by Mr. Whitefield, but the whole burden of its building and maintenance fell on Wesley. He hoped to make it a school for his people, and for many years several of the Methodist families sent their children. In 1748 it was enlarged, and a public collection was made for it in the Societies, which has been continued ever since. Wesley prepared schoolbooks for use there, and watched over the religious life of the inmates with constant care. Every sign of religious quickening cheered him, but he often mourned that he could not make Kingswood all he wished. He planted two rows of trees in the grounds, and lived long enough to preach under their agreeable shade in the summer-time.
The three names that head the list of Wesley’s lay-preachers are John Cennick, Joseph Humphreys, and Thomas Maxfield. Wesley says, “Joseph Humphreys was the first lay-preacher that assisted me in England, in the year 1738.” • There was at this date no distinctively Methodist Society, so that Humphreys’ help must have been given in the Society at Fetter Lane. On September 1st, 1740, he first began to assist Mr. Wesley at the Foundery. John Cennick, schoolmaster-elect at Kingswood, had begun to preach there in June, 1739. He had gone from Bristol to hear a young man read a sermon under a sycamore tree in Kingswood, but the reader did not come, and Cennick reluctantly took his place. Wesley was asked to forbid his preaching, but he encouraged him to proceed, so that Cennick was constantly employed in the neighbourhood of Bristol. Humphreys and Cennick both left Wesley during the Calvinistic controversy in 1741. Thomas Maxfield’s name, though it does not stand first, is associated with the most remarkable incident in the early history of lay-preaching. He was one of Wesley’s converts at Bristol. On May 20th, 1739, he began to roar and beat himself on the ground so violently, that it took six men to hold him. With a single exception, Wesley never saw any one “so torn of the evil one.” Maxfield found peace whilst Wesley was praying with him. He seems to have travelled for some time with Charles Wesley as a companion and servant. Once he was left in London to meet and pray with the members at the Foundery during Wesley’s absence. Insensibly he passed from prayer and exhortation to preaching sermons. His word led to many conversions. When the news reached Wesley, he hurried to London to check this irregularity. His mother, then living at the Foundery, asked him the reason of his evident dissatisfaction. “Thomas Maxfield has turned preacher, I find,” was his answer. She reminded him of her own objections to lay.. preaching, and then added, “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 yourself.” The Countess of Huntingdon also wrote to say how much she was astonished by Maxfield’s power both in preaching and in prayer. When Wesley heard for himself, he could only says “It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good.” Thomas Westall, another of the first preachers, also found a friend in need. Wesley thought of silencing him, but a pious old lady at Evesham, Mrs. Canning, said, “Stop him at your peril! He preaches the truth, and the Lord owns him as truly as He does you or your brother.”
Maxfield’s recognition as a lay-preacher prepared the way for the extension of Methodism throughout the United Kingdom. Without such machinery the Great Revival could only have been local; now its “circuits” began to stretch all over the country. Dr. Barnard, Bishop of Londonderry, who visited Bath for his health, ordained Maxfield. Wesley had recommended him warmly to his Lordship, and the Bishop told him,t “Sir, I ordain you to assist that good man, that he may not work himself to death.” Maxfield remained with Mr. Wesley more than twenty years. He was intimately associated with George Bell, the Life Guardsman, whose extravagancies caused so much mischief in the London Society in 1763. Maxfield was appointed to take a service at the Foundery on April 28th, 1763, but refused to do so. Wesley had gone to Westminster to preach, but walked back to the Foundery as soon as he heard this news, and preached from Jacob’s complaint, “If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved!” Maxfield’s position as one of Wesley’s helpers had led to his marriage to a lady of considerable fortune, but he had no sense of gratitude. In later years, how ever, Wesley did not refuse to renew the intercourse. He preached at Maxfield’s chapel in Ropemaker’s Walk, Little Moorfields, in 1783, but he reports soon afterwards that Maxfield was clearly convicted by the testimony of unexceptionable witnesses of lying and slandering his old friends for twenty years.
A finer man than Maxfield was John Nelson, the Birstal mason. Southey says he “had as high a spirit and as brave a heart as ever Englishman was blessed with.” He came to London to work at his trade, and found peace under Wesley’s first sermon in Moorfields. He had long been grappling with the great questions of life, and attended all places of worship where he thought he might find guidance. He slept little, and awoke from horrible dreams shivering with terror. Whitefield’s preaching did not relieve his distress. At last he heard Wesley. When the preacher ascended the pulpit, Nelson says, “My heart beat like the pendulum of a clock, and when he spoke, I thought his whole discourse was aimed at me.” Nelson soon found the rest he sought. He was lodging with a family that objected to so much preaching and praying. They even asked him to seek another home. But before the time came for him to leave Nelson’s consistency and earnestness had won them over. They went with him to Moorfields, and one of them was converted. His employer was pushing on the building for the Exchequer near Westminster Hall, and pressed Nelson to work on Sundays, but he stood firm, and won the Sunday rest for his fellow-workmen as well as for himself. He had not spoken to Wesley, but he took care to hear him or his brother every Sunday, and persuaded many of his comrades to go with him. He was so zealous for the souls of others, that he even hired one man to hear Wesley preach. It was a good speculation. The man afterwards assured Nelson that it was the best thing both for him and his wife that ever man did for them.
Nelson’s first conversation with Wesley is singularly interesting. The Yorkshire mason had often wished for an opportunity to speak with one to whom he owed so much. One day he attended the Sacrament at St. Paul’s, where Wesley was, and contrived to walk with him after service towards the Foundery. They talked together all the way from St. Paul’s to the farther end of Upper Moorfields. “It was a blessed conference to me,” says Nelson. “When we parted, he took hold of my hand, and, looking me full in the face, bade me take care I did not quench the Spirit.” This was Nelson’s only interview with Wesley in London. Just before Christmas he returned to Yorkshire. There he was led to tell the story of his conversion. Ills opinions were soon noised abroad, and people of all denominations came to hold controversy with him, so that his house used to be filled with visitors as soon as he came home from work. Some would ask questions, or argue with him; others stood by to listen. Nelson always took care to have prayer before they separated, and soon eight persons had found rest for their souls. In this humble way a great work broke out. Nelson did not attempt to preach, but read some portion of Scripture, exhorted the people to observe what they had heard, and closed his meetings with prayer. For some time six or seven were converted every week. During all this while Nelson had no correspondence with Wesley. Peter Bhler, after his return from America, visited him and greatly strengthened his hands. Nelson was at this time much troubled by some of the Moravians, and felt that he would give ten pounds, if he had it, for an hour’s conversation with Wesley. One night he dreamt that both the Wesleys were sitting at his fireside. John Wesley said, “I will stay but a few days now; for I must go into the north, and return at such a time, and stay with you a week.” A few months later they did visit him, and he heard the very words of his dream.
A neighbour who attended his services was going up to London, and said he would like to hear Wesley, whom Nelson called his father in the Gospel. He brought a Yetter from the Yorkshire mason asking Wesley’s advice in his perplexities. Wesley told the man to say that lie would be at Nelson’s house the following Tuesday. On May 26th, 1742, Wesley met this devoted worker. From this time the brothers became frequent visitors to Birstal, and Nelson’s way was soon opened to wider usefulness. He laboured in various parts of Yorkshire with great success; then Wesley called him to London. His clothes were so worn out in the Lord’s service, that he was not fit to obey the call, but in this emergency a tradesman of the parish brought him a piece of blue cloth for a coat and black cloth for waistcoat and breeches. The Yorkshire mason was now ready to start for London.
A neighbour who was going there allowed Nelson to ride his horse sometimes while he walked himself. In this manner the new itinerant entered the metropolis. He then pushed on to join Wesley at Bristol. Wesley was on his way to Cornwall. John Downes and Nelson went with him; but as they only had one horse between them, they generally set out before Wesley and his companion Mr. Shepherd. When they reached St. Ives, Nelson worked at his trade, preaching as opportunity served. Poor Downes was soon seized by a fever. Nelson was better able to bear the hardships of this rough life. For three weeks he and Wesley slept every night on the floor. The mason’s great-coat made a fairly comfortable pillow for Wesley, but Nelson had to lay his weary head upon Burkitt’s “Notes on the New Testament.” One morning, about three o’clock, Wesley turned over, and finding his companion awake, clapped him on the side. “Brother Nelson, let us be of good cheer: I have one whole side yet.” The skin was rubbed off the other. Hospitality was at a discount in those days. It was a rare thing for any one to offer meat or drink to the poor preachers in Cornwall. After one service Wesley stopped his horse to pick the blackberries, saying to his companion, “Brother Nelson, we ought to be thankful that there arc plenty of blackberries; for this is the best country I ever saw for getting a stomach, but the worst that ever I saw for getting food. Do the people think we can live by preaching” Nelson replied that a friend had given him a capital meal of barley-bread and honey. Wesley told him he was well off. He himself had intended to ask for a crust of bread at Morva, but forgot to do so till he got some distance from the house.
On May 4th, 1744, Nelson was pressed for a soldier by an alehouse-keeper at Adwalton, near Birstal, who felt that his craft was in danger. For a long time he could gain no redress. He refused to fight or to accept soldier’s pay, and had to suffer much for his religion. Neither threats nor promises, however, could silence Nelson. He fearlessly reproved sin and preached to crowds of people wherever his regiment marched. At last a substitute was provided by his friends, and Nelson was Set at liberty. He still followed his business as a mason, but was incessant in his labours as an evangelist. In 1750 he was stationed to a circuit as a regular preacher, and laboured with great blessing for twenty years. This brave soldier of Jesus Christ died on July 18th, 1774, at the age of sixty-seven.
John Downes, who shared his horse with Nelson on the way to Cornwall, was another of the zealous itinerants, who had his full share of the privations and success a of those days. He suffered so much from ill-health that in 1751 Wesley set him to superintend his printing. The journal for November 4th, 1774, pays warm tribute to the genius and devotion of this noble man. Wesley never forgot the need of honour due to his heroic fellow-workers. On his testimony Downes is acknowledged as the mechanical genius of early Methodism. He did not hesitate to say, “I suppose he was by nature full as great a genius as Sir Isaac Newton.” When he was a boy at school, he astonished his master by proving an algebraical proposition in a better way than that given in his schoolbook. Soon afterwards he was sent into Newcastle with a clock to be repaired. He watched the workman, then returned home, made himself tools, and soon finished a clock of his own, which went as well as any in the town. One morning whilst Wesley was shaving he noticed Downes “whittling the top of a stick.” He found that the itinerant was making a likeness of his leader, which he intended to engrave on a copper plate. The second engraving which he made from a folio portrait of Wesley by Williams was prefixed to the “Notes upon the New Testament.” After a long conflict with pain, sickness, and poverty, John Downes died at the age of fifty-two. Charles Wesley visited his widow. “She had one six-pence in the world, and no more.” A friend had received her into her house, and her calm submission and peace of mind surprised all who saw her.
Thomas Walsh, an Irish Papist, became one of the grandest of Wesley’s lay-preachers. He had been trained in the strictest obedience to Rome, but was led to join the Church of England through the instrumentality of an elder brother, who was trained as a priest, but forsook Popery through reading the Bible. Walsh heard the Methodist preachers, and joined the Society in September, 1749, when he was about nineteen years old. lie was soon rejoicing in the love of God. When he opened his mind to Wesley about his call to preach, he was requested to send an account of his conversion and experience. He received the following answer
“My DEAR BROTHER,—It is hard to judge what God has called you to till trial is made. Therefore, when you have an opportunity, you may go to Shronil, and spend two or three days with the people there. Speak to them in Irish.”
Walsh’s gifts were soon recognised. His roughness of address and his dialect offended some, but the power of God was manifest in his preaching. He had his full share of the perils of his new vocation. Seventy-eight men took an oath to oppose him. Armed with clubs, they met him a mile from the town of Roscrea, where he intended to preach, and offered to bring either a priest or a clergyman to argue with him. Walsh told them that he did not concern himself with opinions, but preached against sin of every kind. The opponents were much mollified by his appeals to their conscience, but when he refused to promise that he would not visit the place again, they determined to put him into a well, which they had prepared for that purpose. Walsh escaped this fate, but was taken by the back and thrust out of the town when he attempted to preach in the street. At Bandon, where he was cast into prison by the magistrate, who was also the Rector of the place, he preached through the window to all who could hear his voice. The people, in their sympathy for the young preacher, brought bedding and provision for him and the companions who accompanied him to prison, and the magistrate soon found it prudent to set him at liberty.
Walsh became the Apostle of Ireland. His perfect command of Erse everywhere won him a hearing, and he bad a large share in the spread of Methodism in his own country. His knowledge of the Scriptures was profound. The study of Hebrew was a passion with him. Wesley says that he was the finest Hebrew scholar he ever met.
He could tell how often any word was found in the Hebrew Bible and what it meant in each place. He often attended the synagogues and conversed with the Jews, for which work his studies gave him a special fitness. Wesley calls him. “that blessed man.” He did not remember any preacher who in so few years had been used for the conversion of so many souls. Walsh died of consumption in 1759, in the twenty-eighth year of his age. His incessant study, his abstemiousness, and his prodigious labours, all contributed to this painful loss, but Wesley always considered Walsh a martyr to loud and long speaking. He carefully entreated his preachers to beware lest excitement should leads them to commit the same error.
John Jane deserves a place in the record of Methodist martyrs. At Holyhead, in March, 1750, Wesley, on his way to Ireland, overtook Jane, who had set out on foot from Bristol with three shillings in his pocket. He had spent seven nights on the road, for six of which he was entertained by entire strangers. He reached Holyhead with one penny left. A few months later Jane’s rough life closed. A walk from Epworth to Hainton on an exceedingly hot day threw him into a fever, from which he never recovered. He spent his last days at the house of a good woman, but no nursing could save him. He passed away with a smile on his face. His last words were, “I find the love of God in Christ Jesus.” His clothes, stockings, hat, and wig were not thought sufficient to meet the funeral charges, amounting to thirty-seven and threepence. All the money he had was one shilling and fourpence, “enough,” Wesley adds, “for any unmarried preacher of the Gospel to leave to his executors.” Wesley makes another reference to this devoted man in connection with his visit to Colne in 1776. He preached to a multitude of people, and scarcely ever saw a congregation where men, women, and children stood in such rapt attention drinking in the word, “and this in the town,” he adds, “wherein, thirty years ago, no Methodist could show his head! The first that preached here was John Jane, who was innocently riding through the town, when the zealous mob pulled him off his horse, and put him in the stocks. He seized the opportunity, and vehemently exhorted them to ‘flee from the wrath to come.” Jane had been dead for more than a quarter of a century, but. Wesley had not forgotten his labours, nor had those labours been without the abundant blessing of God.
Wesley was often compelled to employ men of little or no education. But he did his best to rouse the desire for self-improvement. During the Lent of 1749 he met at Kingswood as many of the preachers as could be spared from their circuits, and read lectures to them, as he used to do to his pupils at the University. Seventeen assembled, whom he divided into two classes. To one of these companies he read “Pearson on the Creed,” to the other Aldrich’s “Logic.” He also read “Rules for Action and Utterance” with both. Many references to similar gatherings are found in the journals. Wesley sometimes chose a book of philosophy, and pointed out its merits or its mistakes. When he was not particularly engaged in London, he spent an hour in this way with his preachers. The work gave him great satisfaction. In November, 1764, he writes, “Many pupils I had at the University, and I took some pains with them. But to what effect What is become of them now How many of them think either of their tutor or their God But, blessed be God!
I have had some pupils since who well reward me for my labour. Now ‘I live;’ for ‘ye stand fast in the Lord.” In December, 1757, he spent some days quietly at Lewisham in finishing “A Preservative against Unsettled Notions in Religion,” designed for all the Methodists, but chiefly for the young preachers. His “Christian Library,” consisting of selections made from the best works on divinity, was another proof of his care for the education both of preachers and people.
James Wheatley, who was expelled in 1751 for immoral conduct, brought slanderous accusations against his brethren, which led the Wesleys to institute a careful examination into character. Charles Wesley made a tour of inquiry, with happy results. The charges were found to be groundless. From that time investigation into ministerial character has been one of the fundamental principles of Methodism. It is still made year by year.
Wesley expected his preachers to be the mainspring of his Societies. At Londonderry, in June, 1771, he met the singers, whom he had joined together two years before. The preachers had paid no attention to that part of their work, so that all Wesley’s previous care was fruitless. “And no wonder,” he adds; “for nothing will stand in the Methodist plan unless the preacher has his heart and his hand in it. Every preacher, therefore, should consider it is not his business to mind this or that thing only, but everything.” Wesley was proud of his preachers. The first Sir Robert Peel greatly esteemed the Methodists. He often attended their chapels, and most of his Lancashire works were under the management of members of the Society, who rendered him excellent service. He once asked Wesley to breakfast with him during a Lancashire Conference. Wesley promised to do so on condition that he might bring some of his children with him. At the appointed hour he appeared, accompanied by thirty-six of his itinerant preachers.
The health of his preachers often gave Wesley grave concern. He did not fail to point the sad moral of such losses as that of Thomas Walsh, who, “by violent straining of his voice, added to frequent colds,” brought on the consumption which snatched him away in the strength of his years. John Cowmeadow was “another martyr to loud and long preaching.” Wesley tried to save his life by his favourite specific: “I took him to travel with me.” But it was too late. The poor preacher revived a little, but soon relapsed. Wesley steadily set his face against “that vile custom” of one man’s preaching three times a day to the same congregation week after week, which he felt was enough to wear out the body and mind both of the speaker and his hearers.t His journals and the Minutes of Conference bear constant witness to Wesley’s loving watchfulness over the men who laboured with him in the Gospel. St. Paul’s care for Timothy is a true picture of Wesley and his “helpers.”
Wesley’s rule over his preachers and people has been branded as arbitrary. Henry Moore, who was well able to judge, says that his “arbitrary power, so called, was exercised from first to last in keeping his associates to that work of God, that wholly religious design and employment, which they all professed to embrace as their duty and calling when they joined him. And from this he certainly would not consent that any of them should swerve. In everything else he was, even by their own account, a father and a friend.” Henry Moore enjoys the reputation of having contradicted Wesley more than any man in England. But Wesley encouraged him to speak his mind, and only liked him the better for his plainness. Wesley administered a neat rebuke to one of his preachers, who was irritated because a young itinerant found fault with one of his seniors. “I will thank the youngest man among you to tell me of any fault you see in me; in doing so, I shall consider him my best friend.” Wesley felt the care of his Societies a burden put upon him by Providence, which he durst not lay down. He had not sought authority, but he was determined to use what had come on him unawares as wisely as he could for the glory of God and the best interests of the Methodist people.t If he erred at all in the use of his power, it was in his forbearance. “I have been too tender of these men,” he once said to Moore in reference to two recalcitrant preachers; “you should have opposed my receiving them again. You know I halt on that foot.” The history of George Bell’s fanaticism confirms Wesley’s verdict upon himself. Whilst expecting his preachers to be faithful to the great evangelical doctrines which he taught, he gave them abundant liberty. He instructed Joseph Benson to say to one of his critics, “I never undertook to defend every sentence of Mr. Wesley’s. He does not expect or desire it He wishes me and every man to think for himself.”
The annual Conference was the great event of a preacher’s year. The first of these Conferences, held at the Foundery, opened on Monday, June 25th, 1744, and lasted for the rest of the week. The Wesleys, four other clergymen, and four Methodist preachers were present. Mr. Hodges, Rector of Wenvo, Mr. Piers, Vicar of Bexley, Samuel Taylor, Vicar of Quinton, in Gloucestershire, and Mr. Merriton, from the Isle of Man, were the clergymen; Thomas Richards, Thomas Maxfield, John Bennet, an John Downes the preachers. Downes lived and died in the ranks; the other three itinerants left Wesley. On; the Sunday before this first Conference opened, a love-feast was held, and the Sacrament was administered by five clergymen to the whole of the London Society Next morning the Conference opened with solemn prayer.:, Charles Wesley preached with much power, and baptised a man called Samuel Holloway, “who felt in that moment the great burden taken off.” The first Conference was thus inaugurated by a conversion. The doctrines and discipline of the Society were carefully considered. Every one was entreated to speak freely whatever was in his heart. The result of the conversations on doctrine forms a body of practical divinity, which must have unravelled many knotty questions for the rising theologians of Methodism. The conversation on sincerity shows the breadth of tolerance which characterised these: discussions. “But can it be conceived that God has any regard to the sincerity of an unbeliever” Answer: “Yes, so much that if he persevere therein, God will infallibly give him faith.” “Is not sincerity all in all “ Answer: “All will follow persevering sincerity. God gives everything with it, nothing without it.”
Wesley’s name for his itinerants was “preachers” or “helpers.” The preacher whose name stood first in the appointment for any circuit was the assistant, now known as the superintendent, who had oversight of all the work of the circuit. “In what view may we and our helpers be considered” was another question. “Perhaps as extraordinary messengers (i.e., out of the ordinary way), designed—1. To provoke the regular ministers to jealousy. 2. To supply their lack of service towards those who are perishing for lack of knowledge.” Wesley’s twelve rules of a helper are still cherished as the guiding principles of a Methodist preacher :— "`. Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never while away time, nor spend more time at any place than is strictly necessary.
“2. Be serious. Let your motto be, ‘Holiness to the Lord.’ Avoid all lightness, jesting, and foolish talking.
“3. Converse sparingly and cautiously with women, particularly with young women.
"4. Take no step towards marriage without solemn prayer to God and consulting with your brethren.
“5. Believe evil of no one unless fully proved; take heed how you credit it. Put the best construction you can on everything. You know the judge is always supposed to be on the prisoner’s side.
“6. Speak evil of no one, else your word, especially, would eat as doth a canker; keep your thoughts within your own breast till you come to the person concerned.
“7. Tell every one what you think wrong in him, lovingly and plainly, and as soon as may be, else it will fester in your own heart. Make all haste to cast the fire out of your bosom.
“8. Do not affect the gentleman. A preacher of the Gospel is the servant of alL
“9. Be ashamed of nothing but sin; no, not of cleaning your own shoes when necessary.
“10. Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them, and that for conscience’ sake.
“II. You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those who want you, but to those who want you most.
“12. Act in all things, not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel, and in union with your brethren. As such, it is your part to employ your time as our rules direct: partly in preaching and visiting from i house to house, partly in reading, meditation, and prayer. Above all, if you labour with us in our Lord’s vineyard, it is needful you should do that part of the work which the Conference shall advise, at those times and places which they shall judge most for His glory.
“Observe, it is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care merely of this or that Society, but to save as many souls as you can, to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance, and, with all• your power, to build them up in that holiness without which they cannot see the Lord. And, remember, a Methodist preacher is to mind every point, great and small, in the Methodist discipline. Therefore you will need all the grace and sense you have, and to have all your wits about you.”
The early Conferences laid the foundations of Methodism on a firm basis. Its preachers were knit together by their doctrine and their discipline. Difficulties of every kind vanished when all thus met face to face. At the Conference of 1751, Wesley says, “The more we conversed, the more brotherly love increased.” He expected to hear many objections to the first Methodist doctrines, but none were raised. “We seemed to be all of one mind, as well as one heart.” Before the session closed Wesley mentioned whatever he thought amiss or wanting in any. His words were received with love and with serious attention, so that not one seemed to go away discontented.
In 1753 and 1754 the same spirit of unity and love finds emphatic recognition in the journals. The early Minutes show that the first Conferences were largely employed in considering the fundamental doctrines of Methodism and the practical work of her preachers. During the last twenty years of Wesley’s life the oversight of the growing organisation occupied more and more of the attention of the Conference.
Another story may illustrate the poverty of the early Methodist preachers. Dr. Lyth, in his “History of Methodism in York,” says that one of the itinerants rode into that city one Saturday to preach on the Sunday. On Monday he had to find eighteen-pence for his horse. He had no money, nor had the steward any funds, so the horse was detained. In this emergency the steward’s daughter took the ribbons out of her Sunday bonnet, sold them for more than was required, paid the bill, and gave the balance to help the preacher on his way.
Thomas Walsh was buried near Limerick, but no monument was raised to his memory. Dr. Albert S. Hunt, one of the representatiVes from America to the English Wesleyan Conference of 1886 has recently provided a stained glass memorial window to be placed in the new Methodist chapel built in the Irish village where Philip Embury and Barbara Heck, the piotleers of Methodism in New York, resided before they sailed h4 the New World.