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Monday, June 6, 2011

John Wesley Preaches from his Father's tomb in Epworth

Sat 5 June 1742. I rode for Epworth. Before we came thither I made an end of Madam Guyon’s Short Method of Prayer and Les Torrents Spirituelles. Ah, my brethren; I can answer your riddle, now I have ploughed with your heifer. The very words I have so often heard some of you use are not your own, no more than they are God’s. They are only retailed from this poor quietist, and that with the utmost faithfulness. O that ye knew how much God is wiser than man! Then would you drop quietists and mystics together, and at all hazards keep to the plain, practical, written Word of God.
It being many years since I had been in Epworth before, I went to an inn in the middle of the town, not knowing whether there were any left in it now who would not be ashamed of my acquaintance. But an old servant of my father’s, with two or three poor women, presently found me out. I asked her, ‘Do you know any in Epworth who are in earnest to be saved?’ She answered, ‘I am, by the grace of God; and I know I am saved through faith.’ I asked, ‘Have you then the peace of God? Do you know that he has forgiven your sins?’ She replied, ‘I thank God, I know it well. And many here can say the same thing.’

Sun. 6. A little before the service began I went to Mr. Romley, the curate, and offered to assist him either by preaching or reading prayers. But he did not care to accept of my assistance. The church was exceeding full in the afternoon, a rumour being spread that I was to preach. But the sermon on ‘Quench not the Spirit’ was not suitable to the expectation of many of the hearers. Mr. Romley told them one of the most dangerous ways of quenching the Spirit was by enthusiasm, and enlarged on the character of an enthusiast in a very florid and oratorical manner. After sermon John Taylor stood in the churchyard and gave notice as the people were coming out, ‘Mr. Wesley not being permitted to preach in the church, designs to preach here at six o’clock.’
Accordingly at six I came, and found such a congregation as I believe Epworth never saw before. I stood near the east end of the church, upon my father’s tombstone, and cried, ‘The kingdom of heaven is not meats and drinks, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’

At eight I went to Edward Smith’s, where were many not only of Epworth, but of Burnham, Haxey, Owston, Belton, and other villages round about, who greatly desired that I would come over to them and help them. I was now in a strait between two, desiring to hasten forward in my journey, and yet not knowing how to leave these poor bruised reeds in the confusion wherein I found them. John Harrison, it seems, and Richard Ridley, had told them in express terms, ‘All the ordinances are man’s inventions; and if you go to church or sacrament you will be damned.’ Many hereupon wholly forsook the church, and others knew not what to do. At last I determined to spend some days here, that I might have time both to preach in each town and to speak severally with those in every place who had found or waited for salvation.