Tuesday 23 November 2010

The Rev. John Wesley's Journal. 1769-1778.


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The Rev. John Wesley's Journal.
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John Wesley, M.A., Oxford, was born at Epworth, Lincolnshire, 17th June, 1703, and died in London 2nd March, 1791. He was founder of the religious body known as Wesleyan Methodists. Lisburn appears to have been visited by him five times between 1769 and 1778. That is, in 1769, 1771, 1773, 1775, and 1778. He would also appear to have visited Lisburn both before and after those dates. George Whitfield visited the town in 1751. John Wesley in 1756 preached in a small house in Bow Street. About 1774 the old Methodist Chapel was erected in a space leading into Smithfield, now known as Market Street. The old chapel stood where the Picture House now stands. Bayly in his history of Lisburn states that the ground on which the old chapel was built was granted for ever by Edward Gayer, Esq., of Derriaghy. Opposite the Wesleyan chapel, at the corner of Linenhall Street, was the Methodist Refuge Chapel. Bayly refers to it in 1834, a dissenting branch of the parent church. The present church, at the junction of Seymour Street and the Belfast Road, was erected in 1875. There is a tradition that on one of Wesley's visits to Lisburn he slept a night at Chrome Hill, Lambeg. The tradition runs that in the morning, after his night's rest, meditating in the garden, he idly entwined and interlaced the pliant and tender branches of a young tree. Be this as it may, in the garden at Chrome Hill, close to the entrance to the grounds, is an ancient tree with the huge branches interwoven and interlaced in a fantastic and grotesque manner.

Mr. Wesley visited Derriaghy several times, and evidently enjoyed his visits to the house of Mr. Gayer. He mentions preaching there under the shade of a venerable old yew tree. The Rev. C. E. Quin, Rector of Derriaghy, states that the site of Mr. Gayer's house is now occupied by the residence of Mr. John Hutcheson. It is situated on the side of a hill, a short distance below the church, and on the opposite side of the road from the church. The ancient yew tree is still strong and flourishing, and was visited by large numbers of Methodists in 1903. The Gayers appear to have been resident in Derriaghy for a long time. Former rectors of the parish bore the name. The Gayer of Wesley's time is believed to have been Secretary to the Irish House of Commons.

John Wesley was a man of extraordinary energy, vitality and enthusiasm. The story of his wanderings through the length and breadth of the land is considered at the present time as an invaluable record of the rural England of his day. His restless spirit and burning religious zeal found expression and outlet in travel and preaching. His Journals, published and unpublished, contain a minute record of his feelings, doings, experiences and impressions from day to day over a long period of years.

The Journal under review runs to some 420 pages, and was published in London in 1780. It was lent to the Editor by Mrs. George Wilson, Castle Street:


Monday, April 3, 1769. -- I took horse at four; and notwithstanding the North-east wind, came to Newry before five in the evening. It was so extremely cold, that the congregation in the Market-house was but small. The next evening it was considerably increased.

Wednesday 5. -- I rode to Terryhugan, where the poor people had raised a tent (so called) to screen me from the North wind. I urged them with much enlargement of heart, Not to receive the grace of God in vain. Thence we rode to Lisburn. The wind was still piercing cold: yet it did not hinder a multitude of people from attending at the Linen-hall, an open square so termed, as are all the Linen-halls in Ireland.

Thursday 6. -- I designed to preach at noon in the Market-place at Belfast. But it was pre-engaged by a Dancing master: so I stood in the street, which doubled the congregation, to whom I strongly declared, All have sinned, and are come short of the glory of God.

Coming to Carrickfergus, I found it was the time of the Quarter Sessions. This greatly increased the congregation. And most of them seemed to be deeply affected, rich as well as poor.

Friday 7. -- I preached at eleven, and I believe, all the gentlemen in the town were present. So were all at Newtown in the evening, while I inforced those solemn words, God now commandeth all men, every where, to repent.

Saturday 8. -- I returned to Lisburn, where I was agreeably surprised by a visit from Mr. Higginson, Rector of Ballenderry. He said, "I was prejudiced in favour of the Moravians, settled in my parish, till the late affair. One of my parishioners, Mr. Campbel, died, leaving by Will his fortune to his two daughters, and in case of their death, a thousand pounds to the poor of the parish. His widow was extremely ill; notwithstanding which, some of the Brethren, to whom she was quite devoted; came in the depth of winter, and carried her by night, several miles, to their house. She died in a few days, after she had made her Will, wherein she made two of them executors, a third guardian to the children; and in case of their death, left the whole estate to the Brethren. They concealed her death six days. Mean time two of them went to Dublin and procured letters of administration, and of guardianship. Soon after I was pressed, to undertake the cause of the orphans. I went to Dublin and laid the affair before the Lord Chancellor, who after a full hearing, cancelled the second Will, and ordered the first to stand."

At my leisure minutes yesterday and to day, I read Mr. Glanvil's Sadducisms triumphatus. But some of his relations I cannot receive; and much less his way of accounting for them. All his talk of Aereal and Astral Spirits, I take to be stark nonsense. Indeed, supposing the fact true, I wonder a man of sense should attempt to account for them at all. For who can explain the things of the invisible world, but the inhabitants of it?

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This day (24th June, 1771) I entered the sixty-ninth year of my age. I am still a wonder to myself. My voice and strength are the same, as at nine and twenty. This also hath God wrought.

Saturday 29. -- I preached at the end of the market-house in Tondragee.

Sunday 30. -- At Nine, the people flocked from all parts; but much more at Six in the Evening, when we had a London congregation, both for number and seriousness.

Monday, July 1. -- I preached at Killwarlin, where a few weeks ago Thomas Mott died in peace. In the Evening I preached in the Linen-hall at Lisburn, to a numerous congregation.

Tuesday 2 -- I preached on the green at New-town. But the people had not the spirit of those at Lisburn.

Wednesday 3. -- At Ten, I preached to a small congregation, a mile from Belfast, and in the market-place there at Twelve. I never saw so large a congregation there before, nor one so remarkably stupid and ill-mannered. Yet a few should be excepted, even gentlemen, who seemed to know sense from nonsense. I have found as sensible men at Dublin as at Belfast: but men so self-sufficient I have not found.

Thursday 4. -- I preached near the market-house, Glenarm, about Noon, to a large number of decent hearers; but to a much larger, in the market-house at Ballimena, in the Evening.

Friday 5. - I rode, to Ballinderry, and found an earnest, simple-hearted people. A great multitude here received the word, with all readiness of mind. A specimen of the society consisting of about fifty members I had in the house where I dined; wherein a father and mother, with a son and five daughters, were all walking in the light of God's countenance. Afterwards I prayed with an ancient woman, while a little girl, her grandchild, kneeling behind me, was all in tears, and said, "O grand-mama, have you no sins to cry for, as well as me."

Monday, June 14, 1773. -- After preaching at Lurgan, I enquired of Mr. Miller, whether he had any thoughts of perfecting his speaking statue, which had so long lain by? He said, "He had altered his design: that he intended, if he had life and health, to make two which would, not only speak, but sing hymns alternately with an articulate voice: that he had made a trial, and it answered well. But he could not tell when he should finish it, as he had much business of other kinds, and could only give his leisure hours to this." How amazing is it that no man of fortune enables him to give all his time to the work!

I preached in the Evening at Lisburn. All the time I could spare here, was taken up by poor patients. I generally asked, "What remedies have you used?" And was not a little surprized. What has fashion to do with physic? Why, (in Ireland at least) almost as much as with head-dress. Blisters, for any thing or nothing, were all the fashion, when I was in Ireland last. Now the grand fashionable medicine for twenty diseases, (who would imagine it?) is mercury sublimate! Why is it not an halter or a pistol? They would cure a little more speedily.

Saturday 19. -- I declared to a loving people at Ballinderry, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many of them experienced this; and many felt their wants; several children in particular. In the Evening I preached at Lisburn, and on the two following days.

Monday 21. -- I met a gentleman, who looked hard, and asked me, "If I did not know him?" Indeed I did not tho' I had been at his house some years ago in Londonderry. Mr. Sampson was then one of the ministers there, a lively, sensible, man; very fat, and of a fresh, ruddy complexion. But he was now, after a long and severe melancholy, so thin, pale and wan, that I did not recollect one feature of his face. I spent an hour with him very agreeably. He did not shew the least touch of wildness, but calm, rational seriousness: so that I could not but believe, it is good for him, that he has seen affliction.

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Friday, June 16, 1775. -- In going to Lurgan, I was again surprised, that I could not fix my attention on what I read: yet while I was preaching in the evening on the Parade, I found my mind perfectly composed; although it rained a great part of the time, which did not well agree with my head.

17. -- I was persuaded to send for Dr. Laws, a sensible and skilful physician. He told me, "I was in a high fever, and advised me to lay by." But I told him, "That could had a not be done! as I had appointed to preach at several places, and much preach as long as I could speak." He then prescribed a cooling draught, with a grain or two of Camphor, as my nerves universally agitated. This I took with me to Tandragee: but when I came there, I was not able to preach: my understanding being quite confused, and my strength intirely gone. Yet I breathed freely, and had not the least thirst, nor any pain from head to foot.

I was now at a full stand, whether to aim at Lisburn, or to push forward for Dublin? But my friends doubting whether I could bear so long a journey, I went strait to Derry-Aghy, a gentleman's seat on the side of a hill, three miles beyond Lisburn. Here nature sunk and I took my bed; but I could no more turn myself therein, than a new-born child. My memory failed as well as my strength, and well nigh my understanding. Only those words ran in my mind, when I saw Miss Gayer on one side of the bed, looking at her mother on the other,

"She sat, like patience on a monument:

"Smiling at grief."

But still I had no thirst, no difficulty of breathing, no pain from head to foot.

I can give no account of what followed for two or three days, being more dead than alive. Only I remember it was difficult for me to speak, my throat being exceeding dry. But Joseph Bradford tells me, I said on Wednesday, "It will be determined before this time to-morrow;" That my tongue was much swoln, and as black as a coal; that I was convulsed all over, and that for some time my heart did not beat perceptibly, neither was any pulse discernable.

In the night of Thursday, the 22, Joseph Bradford came to me with a cup, and said, "Sir, you must take this." I thought, "I will, if I can swallow, to please him: for it will do me neither harm nor good." Immediately it set me a vomiting: my heart began to beat, and my pulse to play again. And from that hour, the extremity of the symptoms abated. The next day I sat up several hours, and walked four or five times across the room. On Saturday I sat up all day, and walked across the room many times, without any weariness. On Sunday I came down stairs, and sat several hours in the parlour. On Monday I walked out before the house: on Tuesday I took an airing in the chaise: and on Wednesday, trusting in God, to the astonishment of my friends, I set out for Dublin. I did not determine how far to go that day, not knowing how my strength would hold. But finding myself no worse at Banbridge, I ventured to Newry. And after traveling thirty (English) miles, I was stronger than in the morning.

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Monday, June 15, 1778. -- I left Downpatrick with much satisfaction, and in the evening preached in the Linen-hall at Lisburn, to near as large a congregation as that in the Grove, but not near so much affected. Afterwards I went to my old lodging at Derry Aghy, one of the pleasantest spots in the kingdom: and I could relish it now! How does God bring us down to the gates of death, and bring us up again!

Tuesday 16. -- T preached at eight to a lively congregation, under the venerable old Yew, supposed to have flourished in the reign or King James I. if not of Queen Elisabeth.

Wednesday 17. -- At eleven, our brethren flocked to Lisburn from all parts, whom I strongly exhorted, in the Apostle's words, "To walk worthy of the Lord." At the Love-feast which followed, we were greatly comforted; many of the country people declaring with all simplicity, and yet with great propriety both of sentiment and expression, what God had done for their souls.

Thursday 18. -- I preached at Ballinderry, (in my way to Lurgan) where many flocked together though at a very short warning. We had four or five times as many in the evening at Lurgan: but some of them wild as colts untamed. However they all listened to that great truth, "Narrow is the way that leadeth to life."

Sunday 28. -- I am this day seventy-five years old, and I do not find myself, blessed be God, any weaker than I was at five-and-twenty: this also hath God wrought!

All this week I visited as many as I could, and endeavoured to confirm their love to each other; and I have not known the Society for many years so united as it is now.

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(To the Editor of The "Lisburn Standard.")

Dear Sir, -- Those interested in the local history of our town and neighbourhood are under a great debt of gratitude to Mr. James Carson for republishing in your columns the extracts from the book written by Sir. John Moore Johnston in 1839, and known as "Heterogenea," and also for his own editorial notes on the book itself. It is right and proper that as much of the local history as can be authentically proved should be narrated in your columns, until some day the history of the town will be published in a more permanent form. The local facts dealing with the town are set forth in many books, journals, and pamphlets, and it would be a pity not to connote these carefully; and I have no doubt that under the skilful editorship of Mr. Carson these data will be vividly chronicled. The late Bishop Reeves in his "Ecclesiastical Antiquities" tells us that the Marquis of Hertford was the owner of 60,000 acres comprised in the two Manors of Killultagh and Derryvolgie. In the Church inquisitions or enquiries Killultagh was called "Sylva Ultonienais" -- the Wood of Ulster -- and that in the 17th century this territory of Killultagh formed part of the County of Down and was a territory per se. It contained the parishes of Ballinderry, Aghalee, Aghagallon, Magheramesk, Magheragall, and portion of Blaris north of the Lagan. Of course since the 18th century it forms part of the County Antrim.

Knox in his History of Down says that in the reign of James I. Lisburn was an inconsiderable village, and that it was entirely owing to Edward, Viscount Conway, to whom King Charles I. granted the remainder of the Manor of Killultagh, a portion having been previously granted to his ancestor, Sir Fulke Conway, by the same monarch. The grant of Edward, Viscount Conway, conferred certain rights and privileges of holding courts-leet and courts-baron, and other courts for the recovery of small debts up to £2 and a court of record for sums not exceeding £20. These courts-leet were held regularly by the Seneschal appointed by the Lord of the Manor, the last one being appointed by the late Sir Richard Wallace, who was the sub-agent and genial gentleman, Mr. Claude L. Capron. His predecessor was, I believe, Mr. Gregg, who resided at Derryvolgie, Lisburn. Under the Hertford leases, the lessees covenanted to attend these courts and pay the leet, which amounted to 8d for every head tenant and 4d for every under-tenant. Some attempts were made some time ago to trace the records of these ancient courts, but they were unsuccessful. A court was also held at Lambeg for the Manor of Derryvolgie, but its records seem to be non-existent. These courts are how no longer held, but they still exist in some English towns. Some of the charges borne by the courts-leet were the upkeep of the bye-roads on the estate and the cost of the ringing of the curfew bell, now kindly defrayed by the Cathedral Parish.

The Battle of Lisburn, 1641, is very interesting reading, and a literal copy of the minutes from the old vestry book of the then Parish Church (now and since 1662 the Cathedral), in the language of the day, is given in Volume I. of the Archaeological Journal (old series). It may he mentioned that Sir George Rawdon, one of the heroes of that battle, resided at Brookhill House, subsequently the residence of that gallant old Irish gentleman, the brave Commodore Watson, who is buried in Magheragall Parish Church, and until recent years also the residence of Mr. W. J. B. Lyons, J.P., D.L. In a footnote appearing in the Journal it states that one of the insurgents, Ever Magennis, son of Rory Oge Magennis, was killed in this battle.

Lisburn Tokens.

I have often considered whether any of the inhabitants of the town are possessed of the old tokens used as mediums of exchange or money in the 17th century. Lisburn had several traders then using these tokens -- at least, according to authorities, eight distinct tokens were known to be in existence. In Volume 3 of the Archæological Journal (old series) a drawing is given of one issued for 1d by Mr. Oliver Taylor in Lisnegarvie, dated 1658. Could any reader furnish any information on the matter either to Mr. Carson or myself?

I thought this letter might prove interesting as an addenda to the excellent and copious notes of Mr. Carson. -- Yours faithfully,


(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 24 November 1916 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week through 1917. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

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