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Apostle was divinely inspired. Thus I reasoned, and thus to some I talked ; while what my friends said in opposition made little impression on my mind. I almost determined to desist from travelling at the ensuing Conference. In this frame of mind, I wrote to my much esteemed friend
stating my reasonings and thoughts in all the strength of which I was capable; expecting to gain him over to my way of thinking. His answer, though it crossed my expectations, was satisfactory to my mind. He shewed me clearly that I was under temptation; that my thoughts were vain and ground
and that I ought to be thankful to God for having brought me into such a situation.'"*
Mr. Entwisle was the “ much esteemed friend,” whose name was modestly suppressed in the above extract from Mr. Lomas's papers. The letter he wrote to him on this occasion, may perhaps not be unacceptable to the reader. It will show the beneficial influence of the painful exercises through which he had been called to pass. In him tribulation had worked“ patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” And as it was the means of relieving the mind of one who became an eminently pious, talented, and useful minister of the Gospel, --so it may again, by the blessing of God, break the force of some of those painful temptations by which the enemy frequently assails those who are called by the Great Head of the Church to the same honourable but arduous work. The letter is as follows:
Birstal, Dec. 17, 1789. DEAR BROTHER, · I can easily forgive you, as your deferring to write has not arisen from your want of Christian love, but is owing to the confusion and distraction of your mind. I can sympathise with you, because I have been exercised myself in the same way. I am glad you have opened your mind so freely. O that my God would direct me to say something that would be of use to you!
I would observe, in the first place, that the trials you have been labouring under, are such as are very common to young preachers at their first setting out in the work of God. Several reasons may be assigned for
* Methodist Magazine, Vol. XXXIV. p. 81.
this: First, It is quite new and strange to a person who has been much employed in the hurry of business, as you and I were, to be constantly engaged in reading, writing, meditating, travelling, &c. The mind, much at leisure, (which was not the case before) is too apt to be employed in unprofitable reasonings. A continual change of place and company is disagreeable to those who are of a thinking and reserved disposition. A sense of the greatness of the work often sinks the spirits of young men, who are truly acquainted with their own ignorance and weakness. They think—what wisdom, what prudence, what simplicity, what humility, what disinterestedness, what zeal and courage,—all blended together, are needful, to make us able ministers of the New Testament. Sometimes they are afraid they will be of no use in the world: that they are taking the poor people's money, and yet doing them little or no good. Now these reasonings depress the mind, impair the vigour of the animal spirits, (if given way to) and bring on nervous disorders which are very troublesome to studious persons. These things I can speak from experience. Oh! how many dark, sorrowful days have I had since I began to travel. If I had been acquainted beforehand with these things, my spirits would have failed because of the work.
Another cause of the trials of young preachers is this :—Satan is determined to make their way as rough as possible. No persons in the world are such enemies to Satan's kingdom, as holy, faithful, zealous preachers of the Gospel; therefore his utmost strength is exerted to destroy, and if he cannot destroy, to perplex such as are likely to answer that character. But let us consider the Captain of our salvation. Before he began his public ministry, he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil; and St. Paul says he was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.' Besides, our Lord hath said, “Lo! I am with you always,' &c. Courage, brother, courage! Christ holds the stars in his right hand. If we are faithful to grace, the
very temptations of Satan will be the occasion of defeating his own designs, and undermining the foundation of his own kingdom. When he sets before us our unfitness for so great a work, or when we give way to evil reasonings
upon that head, let us instantly confess our ignorance, and fly to Him, who has promised to give us wisdom liberally without upbraiding. When we are conscious of our want of deep piety, let us not sink into discouragement, but be importunate at the throne of grace for more intimate fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Prayer can do great things. And you have need to attend to the apostolic injunction, · Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.'
“You think you ‘might be useful at home to your parents, and do as much good in a spiritual way.' Is not this carving for yourself? Should we not suspect ourselves when we find pleasure in our designs ? Would it be a piece of self-denial to go home?
“ You think unless you could preach very often, the difference between a travelling and local preacher is not very great.' I think it is. A travelling preacher is delivered from those encumbrances which necessarily attend worldly business, and which unfit the mind for meditation on the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. A travelling preacher has more leisure to converse with God on the mount of holy meditation and prayer; more time to converse with the people, visit the sick, &c. I am fully convinced that if we visit the people in their houses, and converse with them in a serious, scriptural way, inquiring into the state of their minds, and joining with them in prayer suited to their states and wants, we shall be both useful and happy in the Lord's work. For my own part, I can say it to the glory of God, my method is this :-I spend all the forenoon in my room : after dinner, I frequently, (if there be no sick to visit,) go and visit four, five, or six families, converse with each about ten minutes, go to prayer, and so leave them, still considering myself a minister of Jesus Christ. If we converse with the people about trifles, we had better stay at home; for that will only bring us and our ministry into contempt. You and I should be grave beyond our years.
Let no man despise thy youth,' saith Paul to Timothy; i.e. let no man have any real cause to despise thy youth. I think, brother, if you will take this method, you will find great pleasure in it, and you will
never have an hour hanging heavy on your hands. In such a large town as Macclesfield, there are generally many persons sick; so that you never need want employment of the best kind.
“ You think your present way of life is not only preaching the Gospel, but making a trade of it. If it be a trade, it is not so lucrative a one as you might have had at Manchester. It is often a comfort to me, that I have a testimony in my own conscience that I did not enter upon the work as a trade, but left a better trade behind for the sake of glorifying God and being more useful in my generation. The great question is, Is it lawful for those who preach the Gospel to live by the Gospel ? Certainly it is. And it is the indispensable duty of those we labour among, to give us their carnal things. It is quite consistent with reason, setting aside Christianity. Upwards of two years ago, I left my business, bought a horse, and set off upon another kind of employment. I cannot be wholly given up to the work of the ministry, and follow temporal business at the same time. How then must I live? The wind won't
I cannot be sustained by the air. Does not reason, as well Scripture, say, “The labourer is worthy of his hire ?' Read, read, and consider 1 Cor. ix. O my brother, drop these thoughts, or temptations, or whatever you call them.
Don't leave the work. If you want labour, you may have enough of it.
“You have had many troublesome, perhaps unreasonable, thoughts about the Connexion itself.' So have I: especially since I came to this circuit. Sometimes a dark cloud has overspread my mind, and distressed me exceedingly. But upon more mature consideration, I perceive that most of my fears were groundless. I think the present generation will never see the Methodist preachers in general settled. The oldest, most respectable, and most pious of them are agreed in this particular. And if such as Mr. Hopper, Hanby, Pawson, Thompson, Benson, Allen, and indeed all the old preachers are agreed herein, the young preachers will of course follow after. It is very probable that many will settle if they can, which may frequently cause divisions in diferent places. Nevertheless, the work is still the Lord's;
and if we be faithful, he will maintain his own cause. I have been troubled about these things at various times. But I see it is wrong for me to distress my mind about such things, which are remote from my present usefulness in the church of God. The Lord has done great things by means of the Methodist preachers; and I trust the glory is not yet departed from us. If we desire the prosperity of the work of God, and the preservation of primitive Methodism, our best way, I think, is, to live near to God ourselves, to labour after constant fellowship with Him; to be lively, active, and laborious in our Lord's work; and then commit ourselves and the church into his own hands. • If He cannot maintain his own cause, let it fall,' saith Luther.
“It is said, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.' We should therefore often be found upon our knees, pleading with God for his people's preservation and prosperity. I make no doubt there are thousands of holy souls in our Connexion who are working by an engine which the world knoweth not of. I mean, they are by earnest prayer and supplication engaging God on our side. O that there were more such precious souls among us! Undoubtedly God hears prayer, and there never was a time when we had such need to pray as at present.
“You seem to think it was wrong to leave Dewsbury House. I wish it had not been left. It has an appearance of evil to those who are unacquainted with the measures that were taken to settle it. Some of the Trustees themselves are now convinced that the leading men never intended to settle it; and there is great reason to believe they would have had a settled minister after Mr. Wesley's decease. But yet, if we had staid till then, perhaps it might have been better. I have had many reasonings upon this subject, you may be sure, being in the midst of the fire. However, my business is not to contend about houses, but to save my own soul and them that hear me.
“I approve of the method of settling houses on the Conference plan, with a few restrictions ; and wish all the houses were so settled : yet I think, if they could not be settled quietly, we had better let them remain