The Great Methodist Revival of the 18th Century

I Corinthians 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:3
       It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
       Therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): It was a brave day for England when George Whitefield began field preaching.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): At three in the afternoon I went to Kingswood among the coal miners…I preached and enlarged on John 3:3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” for near an hour.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): When the Kingswood coal miners, near Bristol, first heard [the gospel] from Whitefield’s lips, they wept till their black faces were seamed with white lines of tears.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): In the evening I reached Bristol, and met Mr. Whitefield there. I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life—till very lately—so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin, if had it not been done in a church.

C. H. SPURGEON: John Wesley stood up and preached a sermon on his father’s grave, because the parish priest would not allow him admission within the so-called sacred edifice, the church.

JOHN WESLEY: I am well assured that I did far more good to my Lincolnshire parishioners by preaching three days on my father’s tomb than I did by preaching three years in his pulpit.

J. C. RYLE: These gallant evangelists shook England from one end to the other. At first people in high places affected to despise them. The men of letters sneered at them as fanatics; the wits cut jokes, and invented smart names for them; the church shut her doors on them.

CHARLES WESLEY (1707-1788): I stood by George Whitefield while he preached on the mount in Blackheath. The cries of the wounded were heard on every side. What has Satan gained by turning him out of the churches?

GEORGE WHITEFIELD: At Usk, the pulpit being denied, I preached upon a table under a large tree to some hundreds, and God was with us of a truth.

C. H. SPURGEON: It was blessed day when the Methodists and others began to proclaim Jesus in the open air; then were the gates of hell shaken, and the captives of the devil set free by hundreds and by thousands…Among the leaders of the great revival of the 18th century were Captain Toriel Joss, a sea-captain, and Captain Scott, a captain of dragoons. Both became famous preachers. Whitefield said of them, “God, who sitteth upon the flood, can bring a shark from the ocean, and a lion from the forest, to show forth His praise.”

JOHN WESLEY: Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell.

FRANCES BEVAN (1827-1909): A little before, John Wesley would have been shocked to hear of a stonemason [named John Nelson] preaching the gospel, or, in fact, anybody who was not a clergyman.
      When he had first heard of such a thing in England, it was in the case of a young man called Thomas Maxfield. Not long before, when going from London to Bristol, he had once left Maxfield to look after the classes and meetings at the Foundry, telling him he might read the Bible to any anxious to be taught, and now and then make a remark, but he was on no account to preach. Maxfield found, however, so many longing to hear the gospel, that he dared not refuse to preach it to them. Wesley heard of it, and his mother saw him one day unexpectedly walk in, when she thought he was busy at Bristol. He looked very much disturbed, and very angry.
      “So,” he said, “Thomas Maxfield has turned preacher, I find.”
      “John,” said Wesley’s mother, “you know I used to think none but a clergyman ought to preach, but take care what you do with respect to that young man, for he is as surely called of God to preach as you are. Examine what have been the fruits of his preaching, and hear him yourself.”
      Wesley was wise enough to take his mother’s advice. He went to hear Maxfield, and was only thankful when he found that he preached faithfully and well. “It is the Lord,” he said, “let Him do what seemeth Him good. What am I that I should withstand God?”

J. C. RYLE: Their proceedings were neither fashionable nor popular, and often brought on them more persecutions and abuse than praise.

CHARLES WESLEY (1707-1788): Hell from beneath was moved to oppose us.

C. H. SPURGEON: Amid jeering crowds and showers of rotten eggs and filth, the immediate followers of the two great Methodists continued to storm village after village and town after town. Varied were their adventures, but their success was generally great. One smiles often when reading incidents in their labours. A string of packhorses is so driven as to break up a congregation, and a fire-engine is brought out and water played over the throng to achieve the same purpose. Hand-bells, old kettles, marrow-bones and cleavers, trumpets, drums, and entire bands of music were engaged to drown the preachers’ voices.

FRANCES BEVAN: Many Methodists were severely hurt, women especially, who were dragged about and trampled on by the mob. In various places the buildings where meetings were held were torn down.

C. H. SPURGEON: The preachers needed to have faces set like flints, and so indeed they had.

JOHN FURZ (1717-1800): As soon as I began to preach, a man came straight forward, and presented a gun at my face, swearing that he would blow my brains out, if I spake another word. However, I continued speaking, and he continued swearing, sometimes putting the muzzle of the gun to my mouth, sometimes against my ear. While we were singing the last hymn, he got behind me, fired the gun, and burned off part of my hair.

JOHN WESLEY: Two years ago a piece of brick grazed my shoulders. It was a year after that a stone struck me between the eyes. Last month, I received one blow, and this evening two; one before we came into town, and one after we had gone out.

CHARLES WESLEY: He looked like a soldier of Christ. His clothes were torn to tatters.

FRANCES BEVAN: Once near Bristol, a mob brought a bull they had been baiting, and drove him into the crowd when John Wesley was preaching on the village green. They hoped the bull would upset the table on which the preacher stood. But though the bull stood close to the table he was quite quiet, which so provoked the mob that they seized the table themselves and broke it in pieces, whilst some of Wesley’s friends rushed to the rescue, and carried him off on their shoulders.

JOHN WESLEY: We reached St. Ives [in Cornwall] about two in the morning. At five I preached on Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies;” and at Gwennap, in the evening, on 2 Timothy 3:12, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

J. C. RYLE: But the movement of these gallant evangelists went on, and made itself felt in every part of the land. Many were aroused and awakened to think about religion; many were shamed out of their sins; many were restrained and frightened at their own ungodliness—many were converted.

JOHN WESLEY: How strange has one year changed the scene in Cornwall! This is now a peaceable—nay, honourable station. They give us good words almost [everywhere]. What have we done, that the world should be so civil to us?

FRANCES BEVAN: At Gwennap, in Cornwall, there is a hollow in the hills, in the form of a horse-shoe. Here the crowds would sit around John Wesley, one row above another, so that twenty thousand or more could hear him at the same time.

JOHN WESLEY: It is field preaching which does the execution still: for usefulness there is none comparable to it.


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