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Methodist antiquarian, George John Stevenson, of London, assured me was almost an exact counterpart of Mr. Bray's house. I scanned it closely more than once with deep interest. There were only three rooms, the front shop-room, the back living-room, and one upper room. Imagine the earnestness of Charles Wesley in seeking the way of life when, still weak from a severe pleurisy, he declines the comforts of Mrs. Hutton's best apartments, and takes the little room over the shop, with the braziers hammering below, and willing to endure all if he could only be helped forward in his conversion.
On Whitsunday, three days before his own conversion, John had prayed in the little room with his sick brother, and in the midst of the prayer the prisoner was released. Near ten o'clock the next Wednesday evening, a troop of friends took John down Aldersgate Street and up Little Britain to Charles' room, where they “sang a hymn and prayed, and parted praising God.” The spot where once stood the humbled house of Mr. Bray was more to me in its blessed memories than the great school of King Edward opposite in its stately grandeur.
In the first period of the Methodist movement the prominent leaders were John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and that noble and elect lady, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon. With these we may well name the famous and devout Moravian, Count Zinzendorf. The spirit of each of these great workers seems to linger still around the places in London made sacred by personal toil and sacrifice. Old Fetter Lanethe Moravian chapel remains very nearly as it was internally when those wondrous love-feasts were held in it. I sought it out as a pilgrim would seek a shrine. The yard that once stretched from the chapel front to the street has been long covered with modern buildings, but “the brethren" seem to hold the ancient house as a most sacred place, and have not altered it in the least, except to lower a little the high box pulpit. The very seats of plain boards are there on which the saints of a century gone sat when the baptism of fire fell upon them. Here in this very room was held the watch-night meeting that Wesley refers to in his journal: “ About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many
cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground.” Here were held those strange meetings by a class of good but deluded people who preached “a new commandment called * stillness,' which repealed all God's commandments and
gave a full indulgence to corrupt human nature.” Wesley thus describes one of them: “In the evening our society met, cold, weary, heartless, dead. For two hours they looked one at another. The first hour passed in dumb show, the next in trifles not worth naming." Here Wesley, who opposed their wild doctrines, was expelled from the pulpit, and here in the love-feast five days after he read from a paper the errors into which he believed they had fallen, and at the conclusion said: “You that are of the same judgment follow me.” Eighteen followed him, and the next day at the Foundry the Methodist society was formed.
The Foundry! What memories linger around the spot where it stood! What a busy hive, what a center of power it was in the heroic days! Within a hundred yards of City Road Chapel, where the Ecumenical Conference sat for two weeks, is the site of the original London fortress of Methodism—and yet, possibly, scores of the American delegates passed daily without knowing the facts.
A hundred and fifty years ago that part of London was little more than a common. A great highway, now City Road, led out into the country through Moorfields, a sort of park where people of the middle and lower classes sought recreation and amusement in all the sports of the day. On the right of this road and fifty yards distant was a gentle rise called Windmill Hill, now Windmill Street. On the summit stood a large irregular pile of half-ruined buildings. Wesley describes it as a “vast, uncouth heap of ruins.” It was long used as a cannon foundry, but on account of an explosion, in which many lives were lost, had been unused for nearly twenty years. In this “uncouth heap of ruins” Wesley planted his Gospel battery and began a cannonade that soon shook the kingdom. He preached his first sermon at eight o'clock in the morning to five thousand hearers; at five in the afternoon he preached again to eight thousand. He was urged to buy the place, and did so by the help of generous friends. Let us look at the Foundry refitted for the warrior, John Wesley, and his
thundering legion after the attempt to recast Marlborough's cannon had shaken it to pieces.
It had a front of 120 feet and a depth of 100. The main audience-room would hold 1,500 people. There were no pews, only the plainest sort of seats. Just in front of the pulpit were a dozen of these for the devout sisters; under the front gallery were free seats for women, under the side galleries for
The front gallery was exclusively for women, the side galleries for men. The sexes sat apart rigidly, " as they did,” says Wesley, “ in the primitive Church. “ None were suffered to call any place their own, but the first comers sat down first." The benches for rich and poor were exactly alike. The form of worship was this : Wesley began service with a short prayer, then a hymn was sung, then the sermon, usually about half an hour long; then followed another hymn, and the service closed with prayer.
The next largest apartment was the Band-room. It was in the rear of the chapel, eighty feet long and twenty wide. Here the five o'clock services were held, wonderful in power, to which the zealous Methodists came trudging through the mud by the dim light of lanterns before the dawn. In this room the classes met, and at two o'clock on Wednesdays and Fridays the prayer-meetings were held here. At one end of this long, narrow room a school was conducted; at the opposite end was the Book Room, germ of the mammoth Book Concerns and Publishing Houses of the present day. Over this room were Wesley's private apartments, and here his venerable mother spent her declining years, a matronly queen supporting her sons by her counsel and prayers in the great work that daily widened before them. At the end of the chapel room was a house for assistant preachers and domestics, while the whole establishment was completed by a coach-house and stables.
“Honest Silas Told,” as Wesley calls him, who was converted from a swearing sailor's life to that of a saint, was the first teacher at the Foundry, and he taught from five in the morning till five in the evening at a salary of ten shillings a week. He has left us a picture of the place when he set up school in
“ A ruinous place it was, with an old pantile covering, consisting mainly of decayed timbers, with a pulpit made of a few rough boards.” It was one of Wesley's five o'clock sermons
on the text, “I was sick and in prison, and ye visited me,” that the converted sailor felt moved to take upon himself that amazing work among the wretched criminals of Newgate and other prisons that gained him the noble title of the Good Samaritan of London. For thirty years he worked day and night among the most miserable and degraded of mankind, and when Wesley buried him he entered in his journal this uncommon eulogy: “I buried all that was mortal of honest Silas Told. For many years he attended the malefactors in Newgate, without fee or reward, and I suppose no man for this hundred years has been so successful in that melancholy office."
The displays of divine power in the Foundry in early times, and at the open-air services in Moorfields, near-by, almost exceed belief at the present day. Twenty thousand people was an ordinary Moorfields congregation for Whitefield and Wesley. The singing could be heard two miles away, and the voice of Whitefield, when at his best, fully a mile. Around him coaches, wagons, scaffolds, and other contrivances by the hundred were let to those of means who were anxious to hear the great preacher. One memorable Easter service in this place was the grand occasion of his life as a field-preacher. It was the custom in the holiday season to erect booths in Moorfields for all sorts of mountebanks, players, and puppet shows; and from early morn till late at night the place was filled with thousands of the lower sort of people. Whitefield determined to make one of these festive seasons a grand Gospel field-day. On Whitmonday, at six in the morning, attended by a large band of praying people, he ventured out among the multitudes gaping for their usual diversions. His text was well suited for the occasion: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” In the early still morning all was hushed and solemn. The people gazed with awe upon the impassioned preacher; they wept and were stung with deep conviction. He ventured out again at noon, when the fields were filled with motley crowds, and the shows were in full blast. As soon as they saw him mount the stand the people left the Merry Andrews and crowded by thousands around him. In the evening he renewed the battle, and then came the real tug of war. When he had mounted the pulpit twenty or thirty thousand flocked around
him. He soon became a target for rude fellows. Dirt, dead cats, stones, decayed vegetables, rotten eggs, were hurled at him. A brawny showman, mounted on the shoulders of a comrade, tried to slash him with a heavy whip. A recruiting sergeant forced his way through the dense crowd near the stand furiously beating a drum. But preacher and hearers held their ground. The little boys and girls that stood near him served as pages to pass up the notes for prayer that the people handed in; "and though,” says Whitefield, “they were pelted with eggs and dirt thrown at me, never once gave way, but on the contrary every time I was struck turned up their little weeping eyes and seemed to wish they could receive the blows for me.” They fought the battle against the rabble for three solid hours, preaching, praying, singing, and exhorting the whole time. They then drew off their forces to the Tabernacle, where Whitefield drew from his pocket a thousand notes from convicted sinners asking their prayers. As the substantial fruits of this day's work three hundred were taken into the Church in one day, nearly all of the lower classes, “ brands plucked from the burning.”
The power which attended the sermons of Wesley, delivered usually in calm but fervid tones, was amazing. In a moment men and women would drop down without any strength and cry out with violent pain. “Some said they felt as if a sword was running through them; others as if a great weight lay upon them, and would crush them into the earth; others felt a choking sensation and could scarcely breathe; others as if their hearts were swelling in them ready to burst; others as if their whole body was tearing all to pieces.” Of these strange scenes Wesley says: “These symptoms I can no more ascribe to natural causes than to the Spirit of God. I can make no doubt but it was Satan tearing them as they were coming to Christ; and hence proceeded those grievous cries whereby he might design both to discredit the work of God and affright people from hearing that word whereby their souls might be saved.” A scene of this sort occurred in the Foundry while Wesley was expounding the 12th of Acts. A young man rushed into the room cursing and swearing vehemently. The disturbance was great and the intruder had to be put out by force. But Wesley called to them, “Let him come in that our Lord may