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Wesley Begins Field-preaching
1739. March 15.—During my stay [in London] I was fully employed, between our own society in Fetter Lane and many others where I was continually desired to expound; I had no thought of leaving London, when I received, after several others, a letter from Mr. Whitefield and another from Mr. Seward entreating me, in the most pressing manner, to come to Bristol without delay. This I was not at all forward to do.
Wednesday, 28.—My journey was proposed to our society in Fetter Lane. But my brother Charles would scarcely bear the mention of it; till appealing to the Oracles of God, he received those words as spoken to himself and answered not again: “Son of man, behold, I take from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke: yet shalt thou not mourn or weep, neither shall thy tears run down” [Ezek. 24:16]. Our other brethren, however, continuing the dispute, without any probability of their coming to one conclusion, we at length all agreed to decide it by lot. And by this it was determined I should go.
Thursday, 29.—I left London and in the evening expounded to a small company at Basingstoke, Saturday, 31. In the evening I reached Bristol and met Mr. Whitefield there. I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; I had been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.
April 1.—In the evening (Mr. Whitefield being gone) I began expounding our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (one pretty remarkable precedent of field-preaching, though I suppose there were churches at that time also), to a little society which was accustomed to meet once or twice a week in Nicholas Street.
Monday, 2.—At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city, to about three thousand people. The Scripture on which I spoke was this (is it possible anyone should be ignorant that it is fulfilled in every true minister of Christ?): “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” [see Isa. 61:1, 2; Luke 4:18, 19].
Sunday, 8.—At seven in the morning I preached to about a thousand persons at Bristol, and afterward to about fifteen hundred on the top of Hannam Mount in Kingswood. I called to them, in the words of the evangelical prophet, “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters;.…come, and buy wine and milk without money and without price” [Isa. 55:1]. About five thousand were in the afternoon at Rose Green (on the other side of Kingswood); among whom I stood and cried in the name of the Lord, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” [John 7:38].
Tuesday, 17.—At five in the afternoon I was at a little society in the Back Lane. The room in which we were was propped beneath, but the weight of people made the floor give way; so that in the beginning of expounding, the post which propped it fell down with a great noise. But the floor sank no farther; so that, after a little surprise at first, they quietly attended to the things that were spoken.
Monday, May 7.—I was preparing to set out for Pensford, having now had leave to preach in the church, when I received the following note:
“Our minister, having been informed you are beside yourself, does not care that you should preach in any of his churches.”—I went, however; and on Priestdown, about half a mile from Pensford, preached Christ our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”
Tuesday, 8.—I went to Bath, but was not suffered to be in the meadow where I was before, which occasioned the offer of a much more convenient place, where I preached Christ to about a thousand souls.
Wednesday, 9.—We took possession of a piece of ground near St. James’s churchyard, in the Horse Fair, Bristol, where it was designed to build a room large enough to contain both the societies of Nicholas and Baldwin Street and such of their acquaintance as might desire to be present with them, at such times as the Scripture was expounded. And on Saturday, 12, the first stone was laid with the voice of praise and thanksgiving.
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