Picture of John Wesley

John Wesley

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1785-90: Collects Money for the Poor; Visits House of Lords; Reasons for his Long Life

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Chapter 20. Wesley Collects Money for the Poor; Visits the House of Lords; His Reasons for his Long Life; "How is the Tide Turned;" Last Entries


Saturday, January 1.—Whether this be the last or no, may it be the best year of my life! Sunday, 2. A larger number of people were present this evening at the renewal of our covenant with God than was ever seen before on the occasion.

Wesley at Eighty-one Begs f 200

Tuesday, 4.—At this season we usually distribute coals and bread among the poor of the society. But I now considered, they wanted clothes, as well as food. So on this and the four following days I walked through the town and begged two hundred pounds in order to clothe them that needed it most. But it was hard work as most of the streets were filled with melting snow, which often lay ankle deep; so that my feet were steeped in snow water nearly from morning till evening. I held it out pretty well till Saturday evening; but I was laid up with a violent flux, which increased every hour till, at six in the morning, Dr. Whitehead called upon me. His first draught made me quite easy; and three or four more perfected the cure. If he lives some years, I expect he will be one of the most eminent physicians in Europe.

I supposed my journeys this winter had been over; but I could not decline one more. Monday, 17. I set out for poor Colchester, to encourage the little flock. They had exceedingly little of this world's goods, but most of them had a better portion. Tuesday, 18. I went on to Mistleythorn, a village near Manningtree. Some time since, one of the shipwrights of Deptford Yard, being sent hither to superintend the building of some men-of-war, began to read sermons on a Sunday evening in his own house. Afterward he exhorted them a little and then formed a little society. Some time after, he begged one of our preachers to come over and help them. I now found a lively society, and one of the most elegant congregations I had seen for many years. Yet they seemed as willing to be instructed as if they had lived in Kingswood. Wednesday, 19. I returned to Colchester; and on Thursday, 20, preached to a lovely congregation at Purfleet, and the next morning returned to London.

Sunday, 23.—I preached morning and afternoon, at West Street, and in the evening in the chapel at Knightsbridge. I think it will be the last time, for I know not that I have ever seen a worse-behaved congregation.

Tuesday, 25.—I spent two or three hours in the House of Lords. I had frequently heard that this was the most venerable assembly in England. But how was I disappointed What is a lord but a sinner, born to diel

Fifty Years Growth of Methodism

Thursday, March 24 (Worcester).—I was now considering how strangely the grain of mustard seed, planted about fifty years ago, has grown up. It has spread through all Great Britain and Ireland; the Isle of Wight, and the Isle of Man; then to America, from the Leeward Islands through the whole continent into Canada and Newfoundland. And the societies, in all these parts, walk by one rule, knowing religion is holy tempers; striving to worship God, not in form only, but likewise "in spirit and in truth."

Tuesday, June 28.—By the good providence of God, I finished the eighty-second year of my age. Is anything too hard for God? It is now eleven years since I have felt any such thing as weariness; many times I speak till my voice fails, and I can speak no longer. Frequently I walk till my strength fails, and I can walk no farther; yet even then I feel no sensation of weariness but am perfectly easy from head to foot. I dare not impute this to natural causes: it is the will of God.

Tuesday, August 9.—I crossed over to the isle of Wight. Here also the work of God prospers. We had a comfortable time at Newport, where there is a very teachable, though uncommonly elegant, congregation. Wednesday, 10. We took a walk to the poor remains of Carisrook Castle. It seems to have been once exceedingly strong, standing on a steep ascent. But even what little of it is left is now swiftly running to ruin. The window, indeed, through which King Charles attempted to make his escape, is still in being; it brought to my mind that whole train of occurrences wherein the hand of God was so eminently seen.

Thursday, 25.—About nine I preached at Mousehole, where there is now one of the liveliest societies in Cornwall. Hence we went to the Land's End, in order to which we clambered down the rocks to the very edge of the water; and I cannot think but the sea has gained some hundred yards since I was here forty years ago.

Wesley Visits the House of Lords


Monday, January 9.—At leisure hours this week I read the Life of Sir William Penn, a wise and good man. But I was much surprised at what he relates concerning his first wife who lived, I suppose, fifty years and said a little before her death, "I bless God, I never did anything wrong in my lifel" Was she then ever convinced of sin? And if not, could she be saved on any other tooting than a heathen?

Tuesday, 24.—I was desired to go and hear the King deliver his speech in the House of Lords. But how agreeably was I surprised He pronounced every word with exact propriety. I much doubt whether there be any other king in Europe that is so just and natural a speaker.

Wednesday, June 28.—I entered into the eighty-third year of my age. I am a wonder to myself. It is now twelve years since I have felt any such sensation as weariness. I am never tired (such is the goodness of God!) either with writing, preaching, or traveling. One natural cause undoubtedly is, my continual exercise and change of air. How the latter contributes to health I know not; but certainly it does.

The remainder of this journal was not published in Wesley's lifetime and was not revised by him. The manuscript was "so ill written as to be scarcely legible."

Tuesday, September 26.—Reached London. I now applied myself in earnest to the writing of Mr. Fletcher's life, having procured the best materials I could. To this I dedicated all the time I could spare, till November, from five in the morning till eight at night. These are my studying hours; I cannot write longer in a day without hurting my eyes.

Wesley Visits Hatfield House

Monday, October 2.—I went to Chatham and had much comfort with the loving, serious congregation in the evening, as well as at five in the morning. Tuesday, 3. We then ran down, with a fair, pleasant wind, to Sheerness. The preaching-house here is now finished, but by means never heard of. The building was undertaken a few months since, by a little handful of men, without any probable means of finishing it. But God so moved the hearts of the people in the dock that even those who do not pretend to any religion, carpenters, shipwrights, laborers, ran tip at all their vacant hours and worked with all their might, without any pay. By this means a large square house was soon elegantly finished, both within and without; and it is the neatest building, next to the new chapel in London, of any in the south of England.

Thursday, 19.—I returned to London. In this journey I had a full sight of Lord Salisbury's seat, at Hatfield. The park is delightful. Both the fronts of the house are very handsome, though antique. The hall, the assembly-room, and the gallery are grand and beautiful. The chapel is extremely pretty; but the furniture in general (excepting the pictures, many of which are originals) is just such as I should expect in a gentleman's house of five hundred a year.

Saturday, December 23.—By great importunity I was induced (having little hope of doing good) to visit two of the felons in Newgate, who lay under sentence of death. They appeared serious, but I can lay little stress on appearances of this kind. However, I wrote in their behalf to a great man; and perhaps it was in consequence of this that they had a reprieve.

Sunday, 24.—I was desired to preach at the Old Jewry. But the church was cold, and so was the congregation. We had a congregation of another kind the next day, Christmas Day, at four in the morning, as well as five in the evening at the new chapel, and at West Street Chapel about noon.

Wesley's Threat to Deptford


Monday, January 1.—We began the service at four in the morning, to an unusually large congregation. We had another comfortable opportunity at the new chapel at the usual hour, and a third in the evening at West Street. Tuesday, 2. I went over to Deptford; but it seemed, I was in a den of lions. Most of the leading men of the society were mad for separating from the Church. I endeavored to reason with them, but in vain; they had neither good sense nor even good manners left. At length, after meeting the whole society, I told them, "If you are resolved, you may have your service in church hours; but, remember, from that time you will see my face no more." This struck deep; and from that hour I have heard no more of separating from the Church!

Monday, 8, and the four following days, I went a-begging for the poor. I hoped to be able to provide food and raiment for those of the society who were in pressing want, yet had no weekly allowance; these were about two hundred. But I was much disappointed. Six or seven, indeed, of our brethren, gave ten pounds apiece. If forty had done this, I could have carried my design into execution. However, much good was done with two hundred pounds, and many sorrowful hearts made glad.

Wesley Visits the Irish Parliament House

Wednesday, July 4.—I spent an hour at the New Dargle, a gentleman's seat four or five miles from Dublin. I have not seen so beautiful a place in the kingdom. It equals the Leasowes in Warwickshire and it greatly exceeds them in situation. All the walks lie on the side of a mountain which commands all Dublin Bay, as well as an extensive and finely variegated land prospect. A little river runs through it, which occasions two cascades at a small distance from each other. Although many places may exceed this in grandeur, I believe none can exceed it in beauty.

Afterward I saw the Parliament House. The House of Lords far exceeds that at Westminster; and the Lord Lieutenant's throne as far exceeds that miserable throne (so called) of the King in the English House of Lords. The House of Commons is a noble room indeed. It is an octagon, wainscoted round with Irish oak, which shames all mahogany, and galleried all round for the convenience of the ladies. The Speaker's chair is far more grand than the throne of the Lord Lieutenant. But what surprised me above all were the kitchens of the House and the large apparatus for good eating. Tables were placed from one end of a large hall to the other; which, it seems, while the Parliament sits, are daily covered with meat at four or five o'clock, for the accommodation of the Members.

Wednesday, 11.—At five I took an affectionate leave of this loving (Irish) people; and, having finished all my business here, in the afternoon I went down with my friends, having taken the whole ship, and went on board the Prince of Wales, one of the Parkgate packets. At seven we sailed with a fair, moderate wind. Between nine and ten I lay down, as usual, and slept till nearly four, when I was awakened by an uncommon noise and found the ship lay beating upon a large rock, about a league from Holyhead. The captain, who had not long lain down, leaped up; and, running upon the deck, when he saw how the ship lay, cried out, "Your lives may be saved, but I am undone!" Yet no sailor swore, and no woman cried out. We immediately went to prayer; and presently the ship, I know not how, shot off the rock and pursued her way without any more damage than the wounding a few of her outside planks. About three in the afternoon we came safe to Parkgate; and in the evening went on to Chester.

A Visit to the Channel Islands

Monday, August 13.—We set out from Yarmouth, with a fair wind; but it soon turned against us and blew so hard that in the afternoon we were glad to put in at Swanage.

Tuesday, 14.—Sailing on with a fair wind, we fully expected to reach Guernsey in the afternoon; but the wind turning contrary and blowing hard, we found it would be impossible. We then judged it best to put in at the Isle of Alderney; but we were very near being shipwrecked in the bay. When we were in the middle of the rocks, with the sea rippling all round us, the wind totally failed. Had this continued, we must have struck upon one or other of the rocks; so we went to prayer, and the wind sprang up instantly. About sunset we landed; and, though we had five beds in the same room, slept in peace.

About eight I went down to a convenient spot on the beach and began giving out a hymn. A woman and two little children joined us immediately. Before the hymn was ended, we had a tolerable congregation all of whom behaved well. Part, indeed, continued at fog or fifty yards' distance, but they were all quiet and attentive.

"A Little Circumstance"

It happened (to speak in the vulgar phrase) that three or four who sailed with us from England, a gentleman, with his wife and sister, were near relations of the Governor. He came to us this morning and, when I went into the room, behaved with the utmost courtesy. This little circumstance may remove prejudice, and make a more open way for the gospel.

Soon after we set sail and, after a very pleasant passage through little islands on either hand, we came to the venerable castle, standing on a rock about a quarter of a mile from Guernsey. The isle itself makes a beautiful appearance, spreading as a crescent to the right and left; about seven miles long and five broad; part high land, and part low. The town itself is boldly situated, rising higher and higher from the water. The first thing I observed in it was very narrow streets and exceedingly high houses. But we quickly went on to Mr. De Jersey's, hardly a mile from the town. Here I found a most cordial welcome, both from the master of the house and all his family. I preached at seven, in a large room, to as deeply serious a congregation as I ever saw.

Thursday, 16.—I had a very serious congregation at five, in a large room of Mr. De Jersey's house. His gardens and orchards are of a vast extent and wonderfully pleasant; and I know no nobleman in Great Britain that has such variety of the most excellent fruit; this he is every year increasing, either from France or other parts of the Continent. What a quantity of fruit he has you may conjecture from one sort only: this summer he gathered fifty pounds of strawberries daily, for six weeks together.

In the evening I preached at the other end of the town, in our own preaching-house. So many people squeezed in (though not near all who came), that it was as hot as a stove. But this none seemed to regard; for the Word of God was sharper than a two-edged sword.

At the Governor's House

Friday, 17.—I waited upon the Governor and spent half an hour agreeably. In the afternoon we took a walk upon the pier, the largest and finest I ever saw. The town is swiftly increasing, new houses starting up on every side.

In the evening I did not attempt to go into the house, but stood near it in the yard, surrounded with tall, shady trees, and proclaimed to a large congregation, "God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." I believe many were cut to the heart this hour, and some not a little comforted.

Saturday, 18.—Dr. Coke and I dined at the Governor's. I was well pleased to find other company. We conversed seriously for upwards of an hour with a sensible, well-bred, agreeable man. In the evening I preached to the largest congregation I have seen here.

Sunday, 19.—Joseph Bradford preached at six in the morning, at Montplaisir les Terres, to a numerous congregation. I preached at half an hour past eight, and the house contained the congregation. At ten I went to the French church, where there was a large and well-behaved congregation. At five we had the largest congregation of all.

"Because I Have Lived so Many Years"

Monday, 20.—We embarked between three and four in the morning, in a very small, inconvenient sloop, and not a swift sailer;38 so that we were seven hours in sailing what is called seven leagues. About eleven we landed at St. Helier, and went straight to Mr. Brackenbury's house. It stands very pleasantly, near the end of the town; it has a large, convenient garden, with a lovely range of fruitful hills, which rise at a small distance from it. I preached in the evening to an exceedingly serious congregation on Matthew 3 [the last part]: almost as many were present at five in the morning, whom I exhorted to go on to perfection.

Tuesday, 21.—We took a walk to one of our friends in the country. Near his house stood what they call the college. It is a free school, designed to train up children for the university, exceedingly finely situated in a quiet recess surrounded by tall woods. Not far from it stands, on the top of a high hill (I suppose a Roman mount), an old chapel, believed to be the first Christian church which was built in the island. From hence we had a view of the whole island, the pleasantest I ever saw; as far superior to the Isle of Wight as that is to the Isle of Man. The little hills, almost covered with large trees, are inexpressibly beautiful; it seems they are to be equaled in the, Isle of Guernsey. In the evening I was obliged to preach abroad on "Now is the day of salvation" [II Cor. 6:2]. I think a blessing seldom fails to attend that subject.

Wednesday, 22.—In the evening, the room not containing the people, I was obliged to stand in the yard. I preached on Romans 3:22, 23; and spoke exceedingly plainly; even the gentry heard with deep attention. How little does God turn to His own glory! Probably many of these flock together, because I have lived so many years. And perhaps even this may be the means of their living forever.

Detained by Contrary Winds

Monday, 27.—Captain Cabot, the master of a Guernsey sloop, called upon us early in the morning and told us that if we chose to go that way, he would set out between five and six. But the wind being quite contrary, we judged it best to wait a little longer. In the evening, being appointed to preach at seven, I was obliged to preach within. We were extremely crowded; but the power of God was so manifested while I declared, "We preach Jesus Christ, and him crucified" [I Cor. 1:23; 2:2] that we soon forgot the heat and were glad of being detained a little longer than we intended.

I thought when I left Southampton to have been there again at this day; but God's thoughts were not as my thoughts. Here we are shut up in Jersey; for how long we cannot tell. But it is all well; for Thou, Lord, hast done it.

Tuesday, 28.—Being still detained by contrary winds, I preached at six in the evening to a larger congregation than ever, in the assembly-room. It conveniently contains five or six hundred people. Most of the gentry were present and, I believe, felt that God was there in an uncommon degree. Being still detained, I preached there again the next evening, to a larger congregation than ever. I now judged that I had fully delivered my own soul. In the morning, the wind serving for Guernsey and not for Southampton, I returned thither not unwillingly; it was not by my choice but by the clear providence of God; for in the afternoon I was offered the use of the assembly room, a spacious chamber in the market place which would contain thrice as many as our former room. I willingly accepted the offer and preached at six to such a congregation as I had not seen here before; and the Word seemed to sink deep into their hearts. I trust it will not return empty.

Tuesday, September 4.—The storm continued so that we could not stir. I took a walk today through what is called the New Ground, where the gentry are accustomed to walk in the evening. Both the upper ground, which is as level as a bowling green, and the lower, which is planted with rows of trees, are wonderfully beautiful. In the evening I fully delivered my own soul by showing what it is to build upon a rock. But still we could not sail; the wind being quite contrary, as well as exceedingly high.

Sails for Penzance

It was the same on Wednesday. In the afternoon we drank tea at a friend's, who was mentioning a captain just come from France, who proposed to sail in the morning for Penzance; for which the wind would serve, though not for Southampton. In this we plainly saw the hand of God, so we agreed with him immediately. In the morning, Thursday, 6, went on board with a fair, moderate wind; but we had but just entered the ship when the wind died away. We cried to God for help and it presently sprang up, exactly fair, and it did not cease till it brought us into Penzance Bay.

Saturday, December 22.—I yielded to the importunity of a painter and sat an hour and a half, in all, for my picture. I think it was the best that was ever taken; but what is the picture of a man above fourscore?

Wesley on His Old Age

Saturday, March 1.—(Being Leap Year.) I considered what difference I find by an increase of years: I find 1) less activity; I walk slower, particularly uphill; 2) my memory is not so quick; 3) I cannot read so quickly by candlelight. But I bless God that all my other powers of body and mind remain just as they were.

Saturday, April 19.-We went on to Bolton, where I preached in the evening in one of the most elegant houses in the kingdom, and to one of the liveliest congregations. And this I must avow, there is not such a set of singers in any of the Methodist congregations in the three kingdoms. There cannot be; for we have nearly a hundred such trebles, boys and girls, selected out of our Sunday schools and accurately taught, as are not found together in any chapel, cathedral, or music room within the four seas. Besides, the spirit with which they all sing and the beauty of many of them so suits the melody that I defy any to exceed it, except the singing of angels in our Father's house.

Sunday, 20.—At eight and at one the house was thoroughly filled. About three I met between nine hundred and a thousand of the children belonging to our Sunday schools. I never saw such a sight before. They were all exactly clean, as well as plain, in their apparel. All were serious and well behaved. Many, both boys and girls, had as beautiful faces as, I believe, England or Europe can afford. When they all sang together, and none of them out of tune, the melody was beyond that of any theater; and, what is best of all, many of them truly fear God and some rejoice in His salvation. These are a pattern to all the town. Their usual diversion is to visit the poor that are sick (sometimes six, or eight, or ten together), to exhort, comfort, and pray with them. Frequently ten or more of them get together to sing and pray by themselves; sometimes thirty or forty; and they are so earnestly engaged, alternately singing, praying and crying, that they know not how to part. You children that hear this, why should not you go and do likewise? Is not God here as well as at Bolton? Let God arise and maintain His own cause, even "out of the mouths of babes and sucklings!"

Wesley's Reasons for His Long Life

Saturday, June 28.—I this day enter on my eighty-fifth year; and what cause have I to praise God, as for a thousand spiritual blessings, so for bodily blessings also[ How little have I suffered yet by "the rush of numerous years!" It is true, I am not so agile as I was in times past. I do not run or walk so fast as I did; my sight is a little decayed; my left eye is grown dim and hardly serves me to read. I have daily some pain in the ball of my right eye, as also in my right temple (occasioned by a blow received some months since), and in my right shoulder and arm, which I impute partly to a sprain, and partly to the rheumatism.

I find likewise some decay in my memory, with regard to names and things lately past; but not at all with regard to what I have read or heard twenty, forty, or sixty years ago, neither do I find any decay in my hearing, smell, taste, or appetite (though I want but a third part of the food I did once); nor do I feel any such thing as weariness, either in traveling or preaching. I am not conscious of any decay in writing sermons which I do as readily, and I believe as correctly, as ever.

To what cause can I impute this, that I am as I am? First, doubtless, to the power of God, fitting me for the work to which I am called, as long as He pleases to continue me therein; and, next, subordinately to this, to the prayers of His children.

May we not impute it as inferior means,

  1. To my constant exercise and change of air?
  2. To my never having lost a night's sleep, sick or well, at land or at sea, since I was born?
  3. To my having slept at command so that whenever I feel myself almost worn out I call it and it comes, day or night?
  4. To my having constantly, for about sixty years, risen at four in the morning?
  5. To my constant preaching at five in the morning, for above fifty years?
  6. To my having had so little pain in my life; and so little sorrow, or anxious care?

Even now, though I find pain daily in my eye, or temple, or arm; yet it is never violent and seldom lasts many minutes at a time.

Whether or not this is sent to give me warning that I am shortly to quit this tabernacle, I do not know; but be it one way or the. other, I have only to say,

My remnant of days
I spend to His praise
Who died the whole world to redeem:
Be they many or few,
My days are His due,
And they all are devoted to Him!

I preached in the morning on Psalm 90:12; in the evening on Acts 13:40, 41; I endeavored to improve the hours between to the best advantage.

Sunday, 29.—At eight I preached at Misterton, as usual; about one to a numerous congregation at Newby, near Haxey; and about four at my old stand in Epworth market place, to the great congregation.

Sunday, July 6.—I came to Epworth before the church service began and was glad to observe the seriousness with which Mr. Gibson read prayers and preached a plain, useful sermon. But I was sorry to see scarcely twenty communicants, half of whom came on my account. I was informed likewise that scarcely fifty persons used to attend the Sunday service. What can be done to remedy this sore evil?

"What Is to Be Done?" I fain would prevent the members here from leaving the Church; but I cannot do it. As Mr. C. is not a pious man, but rather an enemy to piety who frequently preaches against the truth and those that hold and love it, I cannot with all my influence persuade them either to hear him or to attend the sacrament administered by him. If I cannot carry this point even while I live, who then can do it when I die? And the case of Epworth is the case of every church where the minister neither loves nor preaches the gospel. The Methodists will not attend his ministrations. What then is to be done?

At four I preached in the market place on Romans 6:23 and vehemently exhorted the listening multitude to choose the better part.

Monday, 7.—Having taken leave of this affectionate people, probably for the last time, I went over to Finningley; I preached at eleven on that verse in the second lesson, Luke 19:47. After dinner we walked over Mr. H.'s domain, the like of which I never saw in so small a compass. It contains a rabbit-warren, deer, swans, pheasants in abundance, besides a fishpond and an elegant garden. Variety indeed! But is there no danger that such a multitude of things should divert the mind from the "one thing needful"?

An Important Conference

I preached at the new chapel (London) every evening during the Conference, which continued nine days, beginning on Tuesday, July 29, and ending on Wednesday, August 6. We found the time little enough being obliged to pass very briefly over many things which deserved a fuller consideration.

Sunday, August 3.—I preached at the new chapel, so filled as it scarcely ever was before, both morning and evening.

Monday, 4.—At five we had a good evening congregation; I believe many felt the power of the Word, or rather, of God speaking therein.

One of the most important points considered at this conference .was that of leaving the Church. The sum of a long conversation was 1) that, in a course of fifty years, we had neither premeditately39 nor willingly varied from it in one article either of doctrine or discipline; 2) that we were not yet conscious of varying from it in any point of doctrine; 3) that we have in a course of years, out of necessity, not choice, slowly and warily varied in some points of discipline, by preaching in the fields, by extemporary prayer, by employing lay preachers, by forming and regulating societies, and by holding yearly conferences. But we did none of these things till we were convinced we could no longer omit them but at the peril of our souls.

Wednesday, 6.—Our Conference ended, as it began, in great peace. We kept this day as a fast, meeting at five, nine, and one for prayer; and concluding the day with a solemn watch night.

The three following days I retired, revised my papers, and finished all the work I had to do in London.

Sunday, 10. I was engaged in a very unpleasing work; the discharge of an old servant. She had been my housekeeper at West Street for many years and was one of the best housekeepers I had had there; but her husband was so notorious a drunkard that I could not keep them in the house any longer. She received her dismission in an excellent spirit, praying God to bless us all.

I preached in the morning at West Street to a large congregation, but to a far larger at the new chapel in the evening. It seems the people in general do not expect that I shall remain among them a great while after my brother; and that, therefore, they are willing to hear while they can. In the evening we set out in the mail coach and early in the morning got to Portsmouth.

Saturday, September 6.—I walked over to Mr. Henderson's, at Hannam, and thence to Bristol. But my friends, more kind than wise, would scarcely suffer it. It seemed so sad a thing to walk five or six miles! I am ashamed that a Methodist preacher in tolerable health should make any difficulty of this.

"The Gentle Steps of Age"

Monday, December 15.—In the evening I preached at Miss Teulon's school in Highgate. I think it was the coldest night I ever remember. The house we were in stood on the edge of the hill, and the east wind set full in the window. I counted eleven, twelve, one, and was then obliged to dress, the cramp growing more and more violent. But in the morning, not only the cramp was gone, but likewise the lameness which used to follow it.

About this time I was reflecting on the gentle steps whereby age steals upon us. Take only one instance. Four years ago my sight was as good as it was at five-and-twenty. I then began to observe that I did not see things quite so clearly with my left eye as with my right; all objects appeared a little browner to that eye. I began next to find some difficulty in reading a small print by candlelight. A year after, I found it in reading such a print by daylight. In winter, 1786, I could not well read our four-shilling hymnbook unless with a large candle; the next year I could not read letters if written with a small or bad hand. Last winter a pearl appeared on my left eye, the sight of which grew exceedingly dim. The right eye seems unaltered; only I am a great deal neater-sighted than ever I was. Thus are "those that look out at the windows darkened"; one of the marks of old age. But I bless God, "the grasshopper is" not "a burden." I am still capable of traveling, and my memory is much the same as ever it was; and so, I think, is my understanding.

Wesley Sits to Romney


Thursday, January 1.—If this is to be the last year of my life, according to some of those prophecies, I hope it will be the best. I am not careful about it but heartily receive the advice of the angel in Milton,

How well is thine: how long permit to heaven.

Monday, 5.—At the earnest desire of Mrs. T—, I once more sat for my picture. Mr. Romney is a painter indeed. He struck off an exact likeness at once; and did more in one hour than Sir Joshua did in ten.

Friday, 9.—I left no money to anyone in my will, because I had none. But now considering that, whenever I am removed, money will soon arise by the sale of books, I added a few legacies by a codicil, to be paid as soon as may be. But I would fain do a little good while I live; for who can tell what will come after him?

Tuesday, 13.—I spent a day or two with my good old friends at Newington. Thursday, 15. I retired to Camberwell and carried on my journal, probably as far as I shall live to write it.

Tuesday, 20.—I retired in order to finish my year's accounts. If possible, I must be a better economist; for instead of having anything beforehand, I am now considerably in debt; but this I do not like. I would fain settle even my accounts before I die.

Wesley Explains Methodism

Sunday, March 1, was a solemn day indeed. The pew chapel was sufficiently crowded both morning and afternoon; and few that expected a parting blessing were disappointed of their hope. At seven in the evening I took the mailcoach; and having three of our brethren, we spent a comfortable night, partly in sound sleep and partly in singing praise to God. It will now quickly be seen whether they who prophesied some time since that I should not outlive this month be sent of God or not. One way or the other, it is my care to be always ready.

April 12 (Dublin).—(Being Easter day.) We had a solemn assembly indeed; many hundred communicants in the morning, and in the afternoon far more hearers than our room would contain, though it is now considerably enlarged. Afterward I met the society and explained to them at large the original design of the Methodists, namely, not to be a distinct party but to stir up all parties, Christians or heathens, to worship God in spirit and in truth; but the Church of England in particular, to which they belonged from the beginning. With this view I have uniformly gone on for fifty years, never varying from the doctrine of the Church at all; nor from her discipline, of choice, but of necessity; so, in a course of years, necessity was laid upon me (as I have proved elsewhere) 1) to preach in the open air; 2) to pray extempore; 3) to form societies; 4) to accept of the assistance of lay preachers; and, in a few other instances, to use such means as occurred, to prevent or remove evils that we either felt or feared.

Wesley Describes Himself at Eighty-five

Sunday, June 28.—In the conclusion of the morning service, we had a remarkable blessing; and the same in the evening, moving the whole congregation as the heart of one man.

This day I enter on my eighty-sixth year. I now find I grow old: 1) my sight is decayed so that I cannot read a small print, unless in a strong light; 2) my strength is decayed so that I walk much slower than I did some years since; 3) my memory of names, whether of persons or places, is decayed till I stop a little to recollect them. What I should be afraid of is if I took thought for the morrow, that my body should weigh down my mind and create either stubbornness, by the decrease of my understanding; or peevishness, by the increase of bodily infirmities; but Thou shalt answer for me, O Lord my God.

Saturday, August 8.—I settled all my temporal business and, in particular, chose a new person to prepare the Arminian Magazine;

I was obliged, however unwillingly, to drop Mr. O—, for only these two reasons: 1) the errata are unsufferable; I have borne them for these twelve years, but can bear them no longer; 2) several pieces are inserted without my knowledge, both in prose and verse. I must try whether these things cannot be amended for the short residue of my life.

"How Is the Tide Turned!"

Monday, 17.—In the afternoon, as we could not pass by the common road, we procured leave to drive round by some fields, and got to Falmouth in good time. The last time I was here, about forty years ago, I was taken prisoner by an immense mob, gaping and roaring like lions. But how is the tide turned! High and low now lined the street, from one end of the town to the other, out of stark love and kindness, gaping and staring as if the King were going by. In the evening I preached on the smooth top of the hill, at a small distance from the sea, to the largest congregation I have ever seen in Cornwall, except in or near Redruth. And such a time I have not known before, since I returned from Ireland. Cod moved wonderfully on the hearts of the people, who all seemed to know the day of their visitation.

Wednesday, 19.—I preached at noon in the high street in Helstone, to the largest and most serious congregation which I ever remember to have seen there. Thursday, 20. I went on to St. Just and preached in the evening to a lovely congregation, many of whom have not left their first love. Friday, 21. About eleven I preached at Newlyn, and in the evening at Penzance; at both places I was obliged to preach abroad. Saturday, 22. I crossed over to Redruth and at six preached to a huge multitude, as usual, from the steps of the market house. The Word seemed to sink deep into every heart. I know not that ever I spent such a week in Cornwall before.

Sunday, 23.—I preached there again in the morning and in the evening at the amphitheater, I suppose, for the last time. My voice cannot now command the still increasing multitude. It was sup- posed they were now more than five and twenty thousand. I think it scarcely possible that all should bear.

Thursday, October 8.—I am now as well, by the good providence of God, as I am likely to be while I live. My sight is so decayed that I cannot well read by candlelight; but I can write as well as ever. My strength is much lessened so that I cannot easily preach above twice a day. But, I bless God, my memory is not much decayed, and my understanding is as clear as it has been these fifty years.

Wesley's Eighty-sixth Christmas

Friday, December 25.—(Being Christmas Day.) We began the service in the new chapel at four o'clock, as usual; where I preached again in the evening, after having officiated in West Street at the common hour. Sunday, 27. I preached in St. Luke's, our parish church, in the afternoon, to a very numerous congregation on "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come" [Rev. 22:17]. So are the tables turned that I have now more invitations to preach in churches than I can accept.

Monday, 28.—I retired to Peckham and at leisure hours read part of a very pretty trifle—the Life of Mrs. Bellamy. Surely never did any since John Dryden study more

To make vice pleasing, and damnation shine,

than this lively and elegant writer. Abundance of anecdotes she inserts, which may be true or false. One of them, concerning Mr. Carrick, is curious. She says, "When he was taking ship for England, a lady presented him with a parcel which she desired him not to open till he was at sea. When he did, he found Wesley's Hymns, which he immediately threw overboard." I cannot believe it. I think Mr. C. had more sense. He knew my brother well and he knew him to be not only far superior in learning, but in poetry, to Mr. Thomson and all his theatrical writers put together. None of them can equal him, either in strong, nervous sense or purity and elegance of language. The musical compositions of his sons are not more excellent than the poetical ones of their father.

Thursday, 31.—I preached at the new chapel; but, to avoid the cramp, went to bed at ten o'clock. I was well served. I know not that I ever before felt so much of it in one night.

The Last Year of the Journal


Friday, January 1.—I am now an old man, decayed from head to foot. My eyes are dim; my right hand shakes much; my mouth is hot and dry every morning; I have a lingering fever almost every day; my motion is weak and slow. However, blessed (be God, I do not slack my labor: I can preach and write still.

Sunday, 17.—In the afternoon I preached in Great St. Helen's, to a large congregation. It is, I believe, fifty years since I preached there before. What has God wrought since that time!

Tuesday, February 23.—I submitted to importunity and once more sat for my picture. I could scarcely believe myself—the picture of one in his eighty-seventh year!

Monday, June 28.—This day I enter into my eighty-eighth year. For above eighty-six years, I found none of the infirmities of old age; my eyes did not wax dim, neither was my natural strength abated. But last August I found almost a sudden change. My eyes were so dim that no glasses would help me. My strength likewise quite forsook me and probably will not return in this world. But I feel no pain from head, to foot; only it seems nature is exhausted and, humanly speaking, will sink more and more, till

The weary springs of life stand still at last.

Thursday, July 1.—I went to Lincoln. After dinner we took a walk in and around the Minster which I really think is more elegant than that at York, in various parts of the structure as well as in its admirable situation. The new house was thoroughly filled in the evening, and with hearers uncommonly serious. There seems to be a remarkable difference between the people of Lincoln and those of York. They have not so much fire and vigor of spirit but far more mildness and gentleness, by means of which, if they had the same outward helps, they would probably excel their neighbors.

A Backsliding Innkeeper

Some miles short of Lincoln, our postboy stopped at an inn on the road to give his horses a little water. As soon as we went in, the innkeeper burst into tears, as did his wife, wringing her hands and weeping bitterly. "What!" he said, "are you come into my house! My father is John Lester, of Epworth." I found both he and his wife had been of our society till they left them. We spent some time in prayer together, and I trust not in vain.

Saturday, September 4.—I went on to Bath and preached in the evening to a serious but small congregation, for want of notice.

Sunday, 5.—At ten we had a numerous congregation and more communicants than ever I saw before. This day I cut off that vile custom, I know not when or how it began, of preaching three times a day, by the same preacher to the same congregation; enough to weary out both the bodies and minds of the speaker as well as his hearers. Surely God is returning to this society! They are now in earnest to make their calling and election sure.

"I Am Become an Honorable Man"

Monday, October 11.—I went (from London) to Colchester and still found matter of humiliation. The society was lessened and cold enough; preaching again was discontinued, and the spirit of Methodism quite gone both from the preachers and the people. Yet we had a wonderful congregation in the evening, rich and poor, clergy and laity. So we had likewise on Tuesday evening. So that I trust God will at length build up the waste places.

Wednesday, 13.—We set out early, but found no horses at Cobdock; so we were obliged to go round by Ipswich and wait there half an hour. Nevertheless, we got to Norwich between two and three.

In the evening I preached at Norwich, but the house would in no wise contain the congregation. How wonderfully is the tide turned! I am become an honorable man at Norwich. God has at length made our enemies to be at peace with us, and scarcely any but Antinomians open their mouth against us.

Thursday, 14.—I went to Yarmouth and, at length, found a society in peace and much united together. In the evening the congregation was too large to get into the preaching-house; yet they were far less noisy than usual. After supper a little company went to prayer, and the power of God fell upon us; especially when a young woman broke out into prayer, to the surprise and comfort of us all.

Friday, 15.—I went to Lowestoft to a steady, loving, well-united society. The more strange it is that they neither increase nor decrease in number.

Saturday, 16.—I preached at London about one; and at six in Norwich.

Sunday, 17.—At seven I administered the Lord's supper to about one hundred and fifty persons, nearly twice as many as we had last year.

Wesley's Last Entries

Monday, 18.—No coach going out for Lynn today, I was obliged to take a postchaise. But at Dereham no horses were to be had, so we were obliged to take the same horses to Swaffham. A congregation was ready here that filled the house and seemed quite ready to receive instruction.

But here neither could we procure any posthorses, so that we were obliged to take a single-horse chaise. The wind, with mizzing rain, came full in our faces, and we had nothing to screen us from it; I was thoroughly chilled from head to foot before I came to Lynn. But I soon forgot this little inconvenience, for which the earnestness of the congregation made me large amends.

Tuesday, 19.—In the evening all the clergymen in the town, except one who was lame, were present at the preaching. They are all prejudiced in favor of the Methodists, as indeed are most of the townsmen; they give a fair proof by contributing so much to our Sunday schools that there is nearly twenty pounds in hand.

Wednesday, 20.—I had appointed to preach at Diss, a town near Scoleton; but the difficulty was where I could preach. The minister was willing I should preach in the church but feared offending the bishop, who, going up to London, was within a few miles of the town. But a gentleman asking the bishop whether he had any objection to it, was answered, "None at all." I think this church is one of the largest in this county. I suppose it has not been so filled these hundred years. This evening and the next I preached at Bury to a deeply attentive congregation, many of whom know in whom they have believed. So that here we have not lost all our labor.

Friday, 22.—We returned to London.

Sunday, 24.—I explained, to a numerous congregation in Spitalfields church, "the whole armor of God." St. Paul's, Shadwell, was still more crowded in the afternoon, while I enforced that important truth, "One thing is needful"; and I hope many, even then, resolved to choose the better part.

John Wesley, The Journal of John Wesley (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2000) Conversion to HTML and placename mark-up by Humphrey Southall, 2009.

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