From Leeds to Mary Fletcher in Madeley. Fletcher’s letter arrived the day after Miss [C.] Rhodes left Leeds. Ritchie was pleased to read that ‘Miss Clark so sweetly sees and feels all things in the hands of infinite love, as to myself in this matter, I consider as done unto the Lord.’ Spiritual matters are discussed in detail and Ritchie’s troubled financial state is referred to. ‘As to the certificates I have not yet received any of them from Bristol.’ [Probable reference to various deals in company stocks and shares discussed throughout the correspondence.]
‘Sister Lessey’s [Probably the wife or other female relation of the Wesleyan itinerant Theophilus Lessey ] dreams were truly animating: that where our dear Father [John Wesley] told we must follow on by faith if we would enjoy the great reward, was peculiarly so to me.’
Ritchie was also grateful for the contents of the letter to Sister [Sarah] Crosby. ‘My prayers have followed your letter to the Dr: [probably the senior Wesleyan itinerant Dr Thomas Coke who had been a leading light in the formulation of the controversial Lichfield Plan of April 1794 (see MAM/FL/6/7/2) ] O that he may come to himself and desist from spreading fire brands etc. Poor Mr [Thomas?] Rutherford, I mourn over him – he loved to be a lover of peace but is now drawn into a party that will either have their own way or fall out with all that oppose them. I am thankful that our Lord led you to write to dear Mr [Joseph] Benson. I had done the same, so had Sister [Sarah] Crosby and many of our old friends. We have hopes [that] the steps the district meeting [reference to the Lichfield meeting of April 1794] will open many eyes (indeed it has, both among preachers and people) and will in the end be overruled for good. Many seem to think nothing short of a general separation throughout the Connexion will restore peace to the Churches and think this is the divine moment for it. They hope Mr [Alexander] Mather and Mr [William] Thompson will join Mr Benson in making a firm stand for the Old Plan and are now sending declarations signed by trustees, stewards and [class] leaders to him and his ejected brethren, signifying their intention of standing by and will all their influence, interest etc, supporting and strengthening their hands and the hands of all the preachers who will join them…our late dear honoured Father [John Wesley] led us for more than half a century and which God had so remarkably blessed and owned, to the conversion and final salvation of many thousands. A paper etc to this purport is now going about here to be signed: a majority of both trustees and [class] leaders (we have no doubt) will sign it, though the other party have a few of both who are violent. Otley, Yeadon etc intend to follow the example of Leeds [and] many other places have something of the same kind. Mr [Thomas] Hanby’s and [John] Pawson’s printed letter which I suppose you have seen, as well as Mr [Samuel] Bradburn’s reply to Mr [Joseph] Benson’s letter, I think will only tend to open the eyes of the people who see for themselves still further…Mr [John] Pawson has written private letters to Mr [Samuel] Popplewell, Mrs [Sarah] Crosby and Abraham Dickinson telling them of the blessed effects of the introduction of the Sacrament at Liverpool, though he acknowledged seven [class] leaders and about 100 people (who though they continue to meet in class etc) have withheld their subscriptions, saying they cannot in conscience contribute to the support of dissenting ministers. He begs all these friends to be quiet, assures them the sacrament will not be introduced at Leeds until the people desire it etc. They have answered his letters and are determined lovingly but steadily to stand firm in the old path neither the means they use to bring in the new one, nor the effect it produces recommends it at all to any of us. A private letter from one of the Church Methodists, as we are now called, at Liverpool, tells us there are ten leaders and about 240 people who have three years kept the old path. Since the sacraments were administered, two leaders have left them and some people, but of the [missing word] others have come over to them and some on both sides are [missing word]…I fear many of the simple hearted will be scattered and love damped in the breasts of many who know not how to disapprove of wrong things without getting into the wrong spirit….’
‘Sister [Hester Ann] Rogers’ life is a sweet thing, so is your’s, each has its own excellence and both likely to be useful to others…’
Mrs Westerman sends her love – she was much comforted by the letter. Has Lady Mary [Fitzgerald] returned to London yet? Ritchie hopes to be in Otley about a fortnight from now.
- Thomas Rutherford (1752-1806) was born in Corzenside, Northumberland. His father was Scottish and both parents were devout Presbyterians. Rutherford began to attend Methodist preaching in 1767, a year after he had been left an orphan. After some early misgivings, he joined the Methodist Society in 1769 and entered the itinerancy three years later. Rutherford exercised an active circuit ministry in England, Scotland and Ireland for thirty-three years. He superannuated in 1805 because of ill health and died in London. Source: Arminian Magazine 1806, 426, and Arminian Magazine 1808, 337ff.
- Thomas Hanby (1733-96) was born in Carlisle, the son of the manager of a woollen factory. He was orphaned at an early age and was brought up by his aunt at Barnard Castle. Hanby was raised an Anglican but was converted by a Methodist shoemaker from Leeds, while making his living as a stuff-maker. He entered the itinerancy in 1754 and exercised a long and successful circuit ministry in England and Scotland. He was appointed a member of the Legal Hundred in 1784 and the following year was one of those ordained by John Wesley for the work in Scotland. Hanby was a keen supporter of the right of Methodists to receive the sacraments from their own preachers. He served as President of Conference in 1794. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)
- John Pawson (1737-1806) was born at Thorner in Yorkshire, the son of a prosperous tradesman. He received a good education and trained as a builder. Pawson was converted under Methodist influence in 1760 and became a class leader and local preacher before entering the itinerancy in 1762. Pawson served mainly in the North and acquired a reputation as a dynamic preacher and gifted administrator. In 1785 he was ordained for the work in Scotland and emerged after Wesley's death as a voice for moderation and the gradual progression of Methodism as a seperate Church. He twice served as President of Conference. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)
- Samuel Bradburn (1751-1816) was born in Gibraltar, the son of a soldier. He joined the itinerancy in 1774 and gained such a reputation for pulpit oratory that he was dubbed the Methodist Demosthenes. A friend of Charles Wesley, he exercised a vigorous and successful ministry in England and Ireland. Bradburn served as President of the Wesleyan Conference in 1799, remaining within the parent Connexion despite some sympathy for the views of the reformer Alexander Kilham. In his later years, he appears to have had a drink problem and on one occasion was suspended from Conference. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995), Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Methodist Worthies (1884) by George John Stevenson..
- Samuel Popplewell (1741-1811) was born into a middle class family at Harewood in Yorkshire. In 1766 he married Elizabeth Priestman of Aberford but she died after little more than eighteen months. Popplewell married again in 1777 and the couple had several children, only one of whom, a daughter Mrs Pullan, survived her father. Popplewell did not have many spiritual impulses as a young man. He was fond of hunting but abandoned this pursuit when he started to take a greater interest in religion. He was awakened under the ministry of Reverend Miles Atkinson and he also started to attend Methodist preaching. Popplewell was converted in 1770 and became a local preacher a year after. Popplewell was employed as the estate steward of Lord Harewood. Shortly before his death, his financial affairs took a turn for the worst when the investments that he had made in his son-in-law’s iron works failed. The trauma this caused probably contributed to Popplwells decline and death on 20th July 1811. Source: Arminian Magazine 1812, 941ff.