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FROM THE COMMENCEMENT OF HIS ITINERANCY TO THE
TIME OF HIS BEING RECEIVED INTO FULL CONNEXION. 1787–1791.
In the month of August, 1787, Mr. Entwisle having purchased what in those days were indispensable to a Methodist preacher, a horse, saddle, bridle, saddlebags, &c. took leave of his relations and friends at Manchester, and set off for Oxfordshire, his appointed scene of labour. He felt much at parting with his parents and brothers. They were all strangers to experimental religion, except his mother, whom he had had the satisfaction to see brought to God, and enrolled as a member of the Methodist Society. She was the first in the family to whom he could venture to speak on religious subjects, and had been induced by his persuasion to attend the Methodist ministry. The happy result was that she was soon awakened to a sense of her guilt and danger, and brought to a deep concern for salvation. While he was praying with her in their own house, the Lord spoke peace to her soul, and enabled her to rejoice in him as her God and Saviour. A new relation was now established between them, and from this memorable day the happy mother looked up to her own beloved son as her spiritual father and guide. He was most affectionately attached to her, and exemplary in the cheerful discharge of every filial duty. As a characteristic illustration of which, it may be here mentioned, that as he was in the habit of rising very early in the morning, he always, before he went to the five o'clock preaching, lighted the fire and performed other kind offices for his mother, who usually rose at five. The feelings with which she used to sit under his ministry, and to witness the favour with which he was generally received, may be more easily conceived than described. The following circumstance
may serve as an illustration. One morning, soon after the gracious change referred to, a gentleman who had heard him preach at seven in the morning, overtook his mother, as they were returning from the chapel; and perceiving her to be one of the congregation, but not knowing who she was, inquired if she “knew who the pretty lad was, who had been preaching ?” All the mother was moved within her, while she most energetically replied, " I believe I do, Sir; IT IS MY SON.” To part with such a son was a severe trial to her; but she freely gave
him up to the service of her reconciled God. And to leave such a mother, recently brought into the way peace, and without a single help in the divine life at home, was a trial no less severe to himself. But the path of duty being now clearly ascertained, he was enabled with confidence to leave her in the hands of their common Saviour,—to forsake all, and to follow him.
He was now entering upon a new and untried scene of labour, the difficulties and responsibilities of which might well cause him to tremble. What trials might await him, he knew not; but his trust was in the Lord Jehovah, in whom is everlasting strength.
He was highly favoured in regard to his fellow-labourers. The Rev. Joseph Pescod was his Superintendent; a man of sound judgment and clear experience in the things of God. His temper was even, and his mind seemed to be continually under the influence of divine grace; so that whether in the pulpit or with his friends, he conducted himself like a Christian.” After travelling twenty-eight years, he died in peace, May 16, 1805. The Rev. Richard Reece, who also went out to travel the same year, and who still survives, was his fellow-labourer: a friendship was then established between them, which continued through life. Mr. Pescod was like a father to them both. Good old Mr. Murlin also, being compelled by his increasing infirmities to retire from the itinerant work this year, settled at High Wycomb in this Circuit. “He was a man of great integrity, sincerity, and simplicity; and was in general so deeply affected with the subjects on which he preached, that he obtained the name of “the Weeping Prophet.” Mr. E. had known him in Manchester, and esteemed it a privi
lege to renew his intercourse with him on his visits to High Wycomb.
The Oxfordshire Circuit at this time included much more than the county which gave it its name ; it extended over the greater part of Berkshire, Wiltshire, and Buckinghamshire; embracing the whole of the present Oxford District, except Brackley and Swindon. The preachers were seldom at home, having regularly to visit Newbury, High Wycomb, Aylesbury, Waddesden, Wallingford, Watlington, Witney, Ramsbury, Shalburn, Great Bedwin, Hook Norton, Kingston Lisle, and many other places.
Throughout this extensive Circuit, including the greater part of four counties, there were at that time only four Methodist Chapels, viz. at Oxford, High Wycomb, Wallingford, and Witney. At Aylesbury they preached in the Baptist Chapel; at Kingston Lisle, partly in the Baptist Chapel, and partly in a gentleman's house ; at Newbury, in an iron-founder's shop ; and at all the other places in private houses. The number of members in Society throughout this vast extent of country was only about six hundred.
Their accommodations in some of the places, though the best the society could afford, were but poor ; and many inconveniencies and privations were their ordinary lot. Even in Oxford itself,—the head of the Circuit, the lodgings provided for the two single preachers (who, however, were seldom at home together,) were in a garret in Newenhall lane, at Mrs. Paxton's, whose husband was a journeyman shoemaker, and for which the society paid sixpence a week !! The only articles of furniture in the room besides the bed, were a chair and a table. The bed had neither curtains nor posts, and was so short that when Mr. Entwisle and Mr. Reece happened to be at home and to sleep together, Mr. Reece, who was much the taller of the two, was obliged to lengthen it by placing his box at its foot. This garret served them for sitting room, study, and bed-room. In winter they used to buy wood, and burn it on the hearth, for there was no grate. According to the regular arrangement of the Circuit work, they met but once a quarter at Oxford. There were, however, certain times in the course of the quarter, when their respective appointments were only
a few miles distant, and when by a short ride, as each of them had a horse of his own, they gladly availed themselves of a few hour's intercourse at some appointed place of meeting.
The accommodations and fare with which Methodist Preachers were familiar in those days differed widely from those of more modern times, and in many instances could not have been endured, had it not been for special supplies of divine grace, and for that ardent love for souls which no waters could quench. A few particulars without date or reference to place, from among many which have been frequently related by my father, as having occurred during the early years of his itinerancy, may be introduced here, without the risk of giving pain to any of the parties concerned or their surviving friends. They will serve to convey some idea of the disagreeables which some of the old Methodist Preachers were called to endure. “ Other men laboured, and we have entered into their labours.”
After travelling great distances, and preaching many times, the lodgings provided for him were sometimes of the most comfortless description. In one place his bedchamber was immediately under the roof, which was in so dilapidated a state, that in wet weather, the rain came in upon the bed; and on cold, clear, frosty nights, he could see the stars through the roof, as he lay in bed ; while at the same time the bed-covering was so scanty and afforded so little warmth, that it might have been designed to assist his astronomical observations by effectually banishing sleep.
In another place, his bed-room was on the groundfloor, which was so low and damp, that in wet weather it was no unusual thing to see the mud floor covered with water; and sometimes it was a matter of difficulty to get to the bed-side without being over the shoe-tops in water. He used to keep his shoes on until ready to step into bed, when he laid them on a chair by the bedside. It was through sleeping in such places as these, that he contracted a rheumatic complaint from which he suffered severely for many years.
In most of the places in the Oxford Circuit, the food provided was of the plainest quality; to this he had no objection, while wholesome and clean; for he always feared even the most distant approach to self-indulgence; but at the same time he was remarkably neat and clean himself, and having always been habituated to order and cleanliness at home, any thing contrary to this was very disagreeable to him. Some of the poor members at whose houses he was entertained were just the reverse, having been brought up in ignorance and semibarbarism; and though made partakers of the saving grace of God, not a few of their habits were too fully established to be changed. These things were sometimes very trying; and hungry and faint as my father has been, after long rides on horseback over wretched roads, he often found it almost impossible to eat the food set before him.
One instance of this kind may be recorded in general terms on account of its influence upon his future life. Being entertained at a house in which he had no place for reading but the room where the family lived, cooked, and took their meals; and being compelled by the cold to seek refuge by the fire-side while the preparations for dinner were in progress; his course of reading was interrupted by the cooking operations of the mistress of the house, whose person, attire, and whole procedure were just the opposite of the sweet and wholesome cleanliness to which he had been accustomed at home. Without offending against delicacy and propriety by a minute detail of the dirty process he witnessed, it may suffice to observe, that it became an occasion of painful temptation and discouragement with respect to his work. The many disagreeables he had daily to endure, and the prospect of an uninterrupted succession of toils and privations in connexion with the itinerant ministry, were presented to his mind in vivid contrast with the comforts he had left at home, and the prospect of temporal enjoyment and respectability that lay before him as a man of business. Had he allowed his mind to dwell upon the contrast, his feet might have slipped, and he might have fallen where many others have fallen : but his was a safer course; he immediately left the room, retired to the orchard, and there lifted up his heart to God for grace to submit to all the inconveniencies and privations to which he might be called in the prosecution of the great work the Lord had given him to do. His