From Congleton to John Wesley in London. Bardsley regards it as a great mercy that Wesley's valuable life is spared to them and that he is permitted to favour Bardsley with his good advice from time to time.
When Bardsley was informed of his stationing in Macclesfield, he was thankful to God and to Wesley himself, however when he arrived and found the Methodists here were divided, he was grieved and did not know what to do. He therefore prayed for wisdom and believes that it was answered. Bardsley was asked to join a 'party' but as he has seen the dreadful consequences of 'forming parties among our people', he determined to avoid such an attachment and to work for peace. He therefore went to those who were prejudiced against [James] Rogers [Bardsley's colleague in the circuit] and tried to remove their prejudice. He found that their minds were very 'sore' but managed to persuade some to come and hear Rogers preach and 'blessed be God, their minds were greatly changed for the better though they do not often hear him as they have said so much to the contrary. I am really sorry that these things should happen as I am fully persuaded they greatly hinder the work of God'. He hopes that this storm will blow over and that they shall see more prosperous days than ever in this circuit.
The Methodists in Macclesfield and Congleton 'who have been offended have done much for God's cause, and they still love it, and if you Revd. Sir will look over anything you have thought wrong in them and send them such preachers the next year as they love and esteem, they will do anything for them and all our differences will be made up'.
The people behave very kindly towards Bardsley and he often feels God's help in speaking to them. Wesley should pray for them.
Bardsley's mind has been much troubled with the afflictions suffered by dear [Martha] Rogers [the former Martha Knowlden, wife of Bardsley's colleague James Rogers] . 'She has behaved so well ever since I knew her that I have felt much on the occasion. I hope the Lord will sanctify this dispensation of his providence to us all'. She seems to be very close to death and the 'Lord supports her in a wonderfull manner.' Her husband James stays with her constantly - Mr Evans has taken his circuit duties and they are managing alright.
Bardsley feels that God is carrying on his work in his soul. 'I do so desire so to walk and please him, that the gospel be not blamed'.
He begs that Wesley contiues to advise Bardsley as he is directed to do so by the Lord. He would be grateful to receive a few lines - these should be sent to the Macclesfield chapel.
In a postscript, he expresses the hope that Wesley visits them before long and that the Lord will come with him and make the visit a 'means of great good both to us, and your own soul'.
Bardsley was very grateful for Wesley putting his likeness in the Arminian Magazine [volume 7 1784 January].
[In 1783 James Rogers was appointed the Assistant or senior preacher for the Macclesfield circuit. In making the administrative arrangements following a circuit division, Rogers found it impossible to please everyone and was the subject of several complaints. Particular anger was felt by members of the Congleton society and appeals were made to John Wesley himself. The dispute was so bitter that Wesley felt it necessary to visit the circuit in person. In the journal entry describing his meeting with the several parties on August 30th 1783, Wesley expressed the hope that tempers were calming down; Bardsley's letter written nearly five months later reveals that his cautious optimism was somewhat premature. Source: The History of Methodism in Macclesfield by Revd. B. Smith (London: Wesleyan Conference Office, 1875), 193-194]
[This letter may bear the wrong date - see 5/6.53]
[John Wesley's response to this letter does not appear to have survived. He did however write to Bardsley from London on February 13th (three days before Bardsley's letter was written) and the content of this letter is not incompatible with it being a reply to PLP 5/6.54; there is therefore a possibility that one of the two letters is wrongly dated. See The Letters of John Wesley, edited by John Telford (London Epworth Press, 1931), vol.VII, 209]