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Beau Nash Argues with Wesley

Tuesday, June 5.—There was great expectation at Bath of what a noted man was to do to me there; and I was much entreated not to preach because no one knew what might happen. By this report I also gained a much larger audience, among whom were many of the rich and great. I told them plainly the Scripture had concluded them all under sin—high and low, rich and poor, one with another. Many of them seemed to be a little surprised and were sinking apace into seriousness, when their champion appeared and, coming close to me, asked by what authority I did these things.

I replied, “By the authority of Jesus Christ, conveyed to me by the (now) Archbishop of Canterbury, when he laid hands upon me and said, ‘Take thou authority to preach the gospel.’” He said, “This is contrary to Act of Parliament: this is a conventicle.” I answered, “Sir, the conventicles mentioned in that Act (as the preamble shows) are seditious meetings; but this is not such; here is no shadow of sedition; therefore it is not contrary to that Act.” He replied, “I say it is: and beside, your preaching frightens people out of their wits.”

“Sir, did you ever hear me preach?” “No.”  “How, then, can you judge of what you never heard?” “Sir, by common report.” “Common report is not enough. Give me leave, Sir, to ask, is not your name Nash?” “My name is Nash.” “Sir, I dare not judge of you by common report: I think it not enough to judge by.” Here he paused awhile and, having recovered himself, said, “I desire to know what this people comes here for”: on which one replied, “Sir, leave him to me: let an old woman answer him. You, Mr. Nash, take care of your body; we take care of our souls; and for the food of our souls we come here.” He replied not a word, but walked away.

As I returned, the street was full of people, hurrying to and from and speaking great words. But when any of them asked, “Which is he?” and I replied, “I am he,” they were immediately silent. Several ladies following me into Mr. Merchant’s house, the servant told me there were some wanted to speak to me. I went to them and said, “I believe, ladies, the maid mistook: you wanted only to look at me.” I added, “I do not expect that the rich and great should want either to speak with me or to hear me; for I speak the plain truth—a thing you hear little of and do not desire to hear.” A few more words passed between us, and I retired.

Monday, 1.—I received a pressing letter from London (as I had several others before), to come thither as soon as possible, our brethren in Fetter Lane being in great confusion for want of my presence and advice. I therefore preached in the afternoon on these words: “I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” [Acts 20: 26, 27].  After sermon I commended them to the grace of God, in whom they had believed. Surely God hath yea a work to do in this place. I have not found such love, no, not in England; nor so childlike, artless, teachable, a temper as He hath given to this people.

Yet during this whole time I had many thoughts concerning the unusual manner of my ministering among them. But after frequently laying it before the Lord and calmly weighing whatever objections I heard against it, I could not but adhere to what I had some time since written to a friend, who had freely spoken his sentiments concerning it. An extract of that letter I here subjoin that the matter may be placed in a clear light.

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