Surrounded by the Mob – Wesley in Wednesbury

John Wesley in Wednesbury, England

Persistence in the midst of Persecution
In their mission to bring the Christian message to every town and village in Great Britain, the 18th century Methodist preachers travelled extensively.

They would arrive at a place, attempt to preach in one of the churches or, failing that, in a market place or at a fair.

Their style was engaging and they spoke with authority and grace. Wesley described their work as ‘offering pardon to sinners’.

But they didn’t always receive a warm welcome. While many thousands gathered to hear the message, some reacted negatively. Sometimes fuelled by jealous clergy, or fearful ‘Gentlemen’, and sometimes by a basic reaction of anger, the preachers faced violence fairly regularly. This was a different type of spiritual warfare.

John Wesley in Wednesbury, West Midlands
One famous incident in the life of John Wesley took place in October, 1743.

He writes, ‘Thursday 20th Oct, 1743 – ‘I rode to Wednesbury.

At twelve I preached in a ground near the middle of the town, to a far larger congregation than was expected, on, ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.’

‘I believe everyone present felt the power of God…and we held our peace.

An afternoon’s writing interrupted
‘I was writing at Francis Ward’s in the afternoon, when the cry arose, that the mob had beset the house.

‘We prayed that God would disperse them; and it was so. One went this way, and another that; so that in half an hour not a man was left.’

Wesley felt it would be sensible to leave, before there was any more trouble. But his hosts, understandably thrilled to have the great John Wesley staying in their house, urged him to stay on.

Not wanting to offend them, he conceded. But the few troublemakers who had drifted off before weren’t finished, and a larger number soon returned.

‘Before five the mob surrounded the house again, in greater numbers than ever. The cry of one and all was, ‘Bring out the Minister! We will have the Minister!’

(All quotes from John Wesley’s Journals, Vol 1, Baker Edition, p.436)

For the next installment click here

To see more on how the early Methodists coped with mob violence click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides


5 thoughts on “Surrounded by the Mob – Wesley in Wednesbury

  1. Luke March 25, 2011 / 5:52 pm

    Hi, I’m reading John Wesley’s bio now…looking for insights into Jesus movements in Western culture.

    I’m confused by why the mobs got involved. What were they so angry about? I can see some of them being paid, but it does seems that there was something else going on too? Just the message of sin and then grace? Conviction? Maybe. I wonder what was going on in the pubs and household conversation. What were they talking about that stirred up mob action?

  2. Tafadzwa Mazarura April 19, 2016 / 1:04 am

    In 1743 the Wesleys and their new Methodist movement were severely tested. Early in the year, John and Charles Wesley preached in the open air on the Tump.[6] They were warmly received and made welcome by the vicar. Soon afterwards another preacher came and was rude about the current state of the Anglican clergy. This angered the vicar, and the magistrates published a notice ordering that any further preachers were to be brought to them. When Wesley next came his supporters were still there but a crowd of others heckled him and threw stones. Later the crowd came to his lodgings and took him to the magistrates, but they declined to have anything to do with Wesley or the crowd. The crowd ill-treated Wesley and nearly killed him but he remained calm. Eventually they came to their senses and returned him to his hosts.

    Soon afterward the vicar asked his congregation to pledge not to associate with Methodists, and some who refused to pledge had their windows smashed. Others who hosted Methodist meetings had the contents of their houses destroyed. This terrible episode came to an end in December when the vicar died. After that Anglican/Methodist relations were generally cordial. Methodism grew strongly and Wesley visited often, almost until his death (Wikipedia)

  3. Lex Loizides April 27, 2016 / 1:42 pm

    Hi Tafadwa. It’s always advisable to go beyond Wikipedia to some actual sources. These may have been listed on the Wikipedia page, of course.

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