« AnteriorContinuar »
soon after Mr. Wesley's sermon in 1746, and in a short time began to call sinners to repentance. He was a respectable tradesman, connected by business with some of Mr. Wesley's principal persecutors; and, long before the magistrates and burgesses of Penzance would suffer Mr. Wesley to lift up his voice in this town, Peter preached the first Methodist sermon from the balcony of the old hotel, long since destroyed. Mr. Wesley's first record of preaching in Penzance is on Monday, September 5th, 1768 ; and thus it would appear that twenty-five years elapsed after the first visit of our Founder to Cornwall, before he was able to lift up the standard of the Cross in this town.
But how great and gratifying a contrast do the present position and influence of Methodism in this neighbourhood present! Here, where so much opposition and difficulty were encountered, we now have, within the half of a circle whose radius does not exceed three miles, twelve chapels, two large and flourishing day-schools, besides numerous excellent Sundayschools, and upwards of seventeen hundred church-members. But it is time to give some account of that remarkable work of God which, in nine months, has issued in the conversion of many hundreds of souls, and the addition of seventy per cent. to our societies.
On our arrival in Penzance after the Conference of 1848, we were much struck with the moral and religious aspects of our principal congregations. At Newlyn and Mousehole we had to preach to great numbers of rough and hardy sons of the ocean, whose burly frames, weather-beaten features, and sailors' jackets, presented a novel and interesting spectacle. In the latter place there was a considerable and excellent society, rich in Methodistic traditions, and long graced with such names as Carvosso, Trewavas, Michael and John Wright, &c. These honoured men were spiritual, and some of them intellectual, giants. It is but justice to add, that their unusual reputation is worthily sustained by some of their descendants and successors. At Newlyn, on the other hand, with a much larger population, our members, principally females, were one hundred fewer; and there was a lamentable prevalence of drunkenness and spiritual indifference. Both these fishing-towns had often been visited with revivals, but not of so extensive or permanent a character at Newlyn as at Mousehole.
The most remarkable feature of our Penzance congregation was the very large number of young persons, belonging chiefly to old and respectable Wesleyan families. We soon found that they were almost all unconverted ; and that, for some years past, they had been addicted to levities which had greatly grieved and embarrassed some of our excellent predecessors. We communicated our impressions to each other, and conversed anxiously on the subject, asking counsel from God. We resolved to embrace every opportunity of pointedly addressing the young in public; and, in our private intercourse with Wesleyan families, to converse affectionately with these interesting members of our charge. God speedily, in infinite mercy, vouchsafed His blessing.
Our first token for good occurred at the September Quarterly Meeting after our arrival. A spirit of harmony pervaded the proceedings; and, during the devotional exercises at the close, a special baptism of the Holy Ghost was bestowed. All present seemed at once prepared to anticipate and labour for a revival of religion. In a short time we found many individuals, chiefly among the poor, under deep conviction; and at our prayermeetings, several professed to find peace with God. It was not long before some of the objects of our chief solicitude, the children of our office-bearers and friends, began to manifest religious concern. Just about Christmas, one or two of these decided on serving the God of their fathers, and were made partakers of His salvation. The influence of their conversion was surprising. They were connected with numerous juvenile acquaintances, and began eagerly to seek the conversion of their friends. Day after day, and week after week, the band of young disciples received fresh accessions ; and, in a very short time, the great majority of our young people, their ages varying from fourteen to twenty-five, made open and delightful profession of their reconciliation with God. Five of the children of one of our Circuit-Stewards were converted in less than a week; and his colleague in a short time rejoiced in the salvation of three of his children also. In scarcely an instance had we a solitary member of a family converted. Brothers and sisters, from two to four or five in as many days, were aroused to religious decision, and, in nearly all cases, were clearly converted to God. The zeal of the new converts, their anxiety for the conversion of their relatives, and the scenes of hallowed domestic rejoicing, when another and another of the family had been saved, filled us with inexpressible wonder, gratitude, and delight. In some cases whole nights were spent in mutual prayer by brothers and sisters; and the morning has witnessed the prevalence of many a young wrestling Jacob with God. The Quarterly Lovefeast last March will long be remembered by those who had the privilege of attending it. During three hours a deep spiritual interest pervaded the proceedings, while many of our young people bore a testimony for God singularly clear, simple, and impressive. It was most affecting to listen to these statements, coming from several younger members of our Wesleyan families, belonging to a class of society which too seldom contributes to the edification of our love-feasts; and, when we thought of what many of them had been but a short time previously, our hearts overflowed with joy and thanksgiving. A repetition of this delightful scene occurred at the Love-feast in June. These youthful disciples, with scarcely an exception, have maintained their confidence in God for nearly twelve months, and are now adorning “the doctrine of God their Saviour,”—a blessing to their families, an honour to Methodism, and a “joy and crown of rejoicing” to ourselves.
The first special indications of good at Mousehole ushered in the new year. In the concluding services of the Watchnight, a person who had been seeking salvation entered into the liberty of the children of God. In the evening of New Year's day, a meeting of Sabbath-school Teachers was held. Many of them being unconverted, the necessity of personal religion was urged upon them by various speakers. A divine unction attended the appeals. At the close of the meeting, two persons professed themselves penitents, and several more began to feel after God. The work instantly spread over the town. Most of the fishermen, including several who had been converted, left early in the year for the Plymouth fishery. During their absence, many of their wives, daughters, or sisters, were made partakers of the grace of God. On the return of the boats, these newly-converted females laboured zealously for the salvation of their husbands, sons, or brothers, who had not given their hearts to God; and, in a very brief period, an unusual number of men professed to have obtained salvation. Scenes of the most affecting character were witnessed. It was no uncommon thing for a inan, when he had found peace with God, to find himself instantly locked in the tearful but joyful embrace of his wife, or mother, or sister, who had herself, a few weeks previously, been made partaker of like precious faith. The work prospered gloriously for several months; the society was almost doubled ; and the new converts continue, almost universally, steadfast in the faith.
But the most remarkable movement in this blessed work occurred at Newlyn. On the second Sunday in this year, “the promise of a shower” descended from above, and was followed by a plentiful and long-continued rain. Detailed description, where there was so much to interest and excite, is almost impracticable. In this place sinners were literally brought to God by scores. It was not at all unusual for twenty persons to profess the reception of the knowledge of salvation in one prayer-meeting ; and sometimes more than this number were enabled to rejoice in the Lord. Last Easter-Monday was such a day as the church does not often witness. Formerly, it was a day of rioting and drunkenness among a large part of the population ; but this year it was emphatically set apart for God. A sermon was preached in the morning; the Spirit of the Lord was poured out; and multitudes were awakened and converted. Services were continued, with very brief intervals, throughout the day ; and we have reason to believe that about one hundred persons, chiefly men, were added to the Lord on this memorable occasion. Language cannot describe the depth or extent of the feeling which seemed to pervade almost the entire population, For a long time meetings were held daily in various private houses, and in every instance were followed by conversions. Our Leaders, &c., both here and at Mousehole, whose unwearied zeal has given us the highest satisfaction, were continually called away from their work or their business to pray with persons in deep distress; and every day, for weeks together, we heard of new triumphs of salvation.
In both the above places special meetings for religious fellowship were held ;-at Mousehole, after the return from the Plymouth fishery ; at Newlyn, before the departure of our brethren for Ireland. They were conducted on the model of love-feasts. Few besides the new converts spoke; the clearness, simplicity, variety, and unction of whose statements were very striking. Many of these people, uneducated but strongminded, expressed themselves with great originality and beauty in nautical phraseology.
The numerical results of this most gracious visitation are as follows:There were in Penzance, at Michaelmas, 1848, 439 members ; last Michaelmas, 644;—at Mousehole, in 1848, 246; last quarter, 444 ;--at Newlyn, in 1848, 159; last quarter, 466. The entire number of members in the Circuit twelve months ago, was 1018; at the present time, it is 1739,being an increase of 721. Well may we exclaim, “ WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT!”
Upon the above imperfect narrative of the most glorious spiritual work it has yet been our privilege to witness, the following remarks are submitted.
1. With reference to the classes of persons who have been savingly benefited, we observe that, in Penzance, they are principally young persons, indifferently of both sexes, belonging, as already stated, to our old and respectable Wesleyan families. A finer or more interesting sight than a class-meeting of these young people is seldom seen ; and few Wesleyan churches are richer either in the character or number of the young people upon whom, under God, will devolve in a few years the duties and responsibilities now sustained by their parents. In Newlyn and Mousehole, on the other hand, the triumphs of the Cross have been achieved in persons of all ages and ranks, as well as of both sexes. In these places a very important feature is, that so many men, husbands and fathers, and young men above twenty-one, have been converted. A most unusual number of old men are included among the new disciples. On one occasion, in Newlyn, three or four old men were weeping in deep distress, anxiously watched by an aged companion who had just previously been saved. When the first of the venerable band found the Lord, this old friend, with whom he had spent many an hour in sin, with whom he had encountered a hundred storms, and laughed in his thoughtlessness at danger and death, fell on his neck, and kissed him, amid the tears of the whole assembly. At Mousehole, when the minister was renewing the tickets of one class, he called the new converts around the table. To his great surprise, seven old men responded to his call, the youngest, sixty-five; and the oldest, upwards of eighty. It was unspeakably affecting to see the tears stealing down their hard and weather-beaten features, while they confessed the sins of their long lives, and hardly ventured to express a hope that they could be forgiven. They were encouraged to expect mercy, even at the eleventh hour; and several have since found the Lord. It will be seen that we have great reason, under God's blessing, to augur well for the stability of a work which comprehends among its trophies so many intelligent and educated * young people; and, in the other cases, so large a number of grown-up persons, many of whom have been long settled in life.
2. Another point worthy of remark relates to the variety of the places and circumstances in which conversions have been wrought. Great numbers were converted at the chapels, and in the public prayer-meetings; but a very large minority were otherwise brought to God. Sometimes at the domestic altar; in other cases, while engaged in closet-prayer; by day and by night ; at class-meeting, or at a select prayer-meeting among a few friends ;-was the blessed change experienced. Many cases occurred of persons suddenly, and without any apparent cause, awakened in the field, or the shop, or the public road. In several instances, the parties fell on their knees at once, and began, regardless of everything but salvation, to cry aloud for mercy. But the most interesting cases—and they were not few-occurred on board the boats. Our fishing friends generally spend the livelong night upon the ocean, in storm or calm, toiling hard for daily bread. It is the practice to shoot the net,” as the casting of it into the sea is called, about sunset. After this is done, all the crew but one, who keeps watch, go below, and “turn in” for the night. Pious crews have always spent a short time in mutual prayer before retiring. During and since the revival, this practice has become almost universal ; and at these interesting prayer-meetings, in the night, upon the mighty deep, many penitents have been made happy in God. Sometimes we have heard of a penitent's retiring into a quiet corner of the little bark, and pouring out his soul in solitary agony all the night, and then, like Jacob, prevailing at the break of day. Sometimes the distress of mind, and the sympathy of the crew, have prevented the shooting of the net ; and when the burdened soul has been released, all have returned home at once to tell the joyful news. Sometimes the men have been unable to go to sea, till they felt assured of forgiveness. Thus, in every form, under every variety of circumstance and place, has the ARM OF OUR God been made bare.
3. We would not omit to mention the remarkable zeal and boldness of the new converts. The idea of concealing what God had done for them seems never to have entered their heads. Following the promptings of their regenerate and happy souls, and the dictates of Scripture, they immediately told what a change had been wrought within them, and invited their neighbours and friends to Jesus. In some cases, especially in our fishing-towns, whole days have been spent by these young recruits in going from house to house, and telling all, without fear or exception, of the love of Jesus. To this circumstance, under God, we are inclined to attribute the wide and rapid spread of this glorious work. They continue to be animated by the same spirit; and have recently formed themselves into companies for visiting the neighbouring places. At Madren their visits and prayers have been owned of God in the conversion of sinners, and the addition of several members to the society.
4. As to the general results of this visitation :We have now had some opportunity of judging, as our newly-converted friends have been several months associated with us, and have stood severe tests. A valuable circumstance regarding our young females in Pen zance is, that without prompting from others, solely in obedience to their own convictions of duty, they gradually discarded superfluous ornaments, and adopted a quiet and godly attire. Upon the establishment of a Ladies' Missionary Basket, a collection of artificial flowers, that had done questionable service in days of folly, was made. From these materials an elegant work-basket was eonstructed, the proceeds of the sale of which were given to our Missions. We should remark, too, that, at our Missionary Anniversary in April, a donation of £10 was presented as a thank-offering, from our young friends of both sexes who had found the Lord.
Among our fishermen and their families the change is very marked, affording satisfactory evidence of the genuineness and solidity of their piety. Drunkenness was a great besetment with many of them. It has been so generally abandoned, that it is quite a rare and startling thing to see an instance in either village. The Sabbath-afternoon was spent in lounging in the sun, gazing listlessly on their much-loved ocean, or walking along the cliff. These practices have been given up. We meet very few idlers or pleasure-takers now, where we used to count them by hundreds. The time formerly wasted or desecrated is spent in public or private devotion, or in efforts to do good.
Towards the latter end of June, our fishermen migrate for a while to Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the eastern coast of the north of England. This is always an anxious time. The uncertainty of success, the dangers of the deep, and the prolonged absence from home, are keenly felt. But this year new causes of anxiety were added. The cholera was hovering about, and making sad ravages in places whither our friends were going. The new converts, too, would be surrounded with temptation. In Ireland, and especially in the Isle of Man, ardent spirits, both cheap and plentiful, had done much damage to the fishermen in former years. Would any of our friends be attacked with cholera, and return to us no more? or, if they should return, would it be only to blast the hopes we had cherished respecting them? It was to be expected that some would die: it was much to be feared that, “concerning faith,” some would “make shipwreck.” We made prayer to God without ceasing, for their preservation in both respects. Occasionally our hearts were gladdened by the reception of a letter from the rude per of some warm-hearted fisherman, breathing a lovely spirit of simple piety, and conveying good news of continued wellbeing. When the time of their return drew nigh, as one boat after another arrived, and it was ascertained that all were well, and all holding fast