From London Road, Worcester to [Joseph] Benson at the Methodist Chapel in Manchester. He receivedBenson’s kind letter on Monday morning, just as he was about to set off for this place.Baldwin had expected to hear from him before but concluded that Benson had not yet reprinted his[Benson’s] sermon.
He was pleased that Benson has wrote a reply to Dr [Edward] Tatham’s infamous sermon [seePLP 4/29/9] for it has done much harm around Oxford - ‘as soon as it was preached in the[Anglican] churches, it inflamed the minds of many against us: the gownsmen [students] and rabble atthe city took the hint which Tatham gave them: therefore came to our chapel on a Sunday night, armedwith sticks that had spears fixt in them. Bellowing, burn it, pull it down, and insulted and abusedseveral of the congregation and put the whole into great confusion and tumult: and for some timeafter we were obliged to have most of the constables in the city to keep peace at the time ofpreaching. And at several places in the neighbourhood of Oxford, we have been violently persecuted.At Wantage where Mr [Michael] Fenwick was preaching there came a mob, they first attacked the doorbut as that was strong, they then the shutter could not breake it, and window which they broke allto pieces, then the windows up stairs: then they threw into the house brick-ends, stones or whichever came to hand. The greatest part of our congregation at Oxford (for the present) is drove away:many genteel people that heard us constantly were so terrifyd at the mob: that they not attendedsince: and I am afraid that many have believed the doctors vile insinuation that we are disaffectedto the King and government. [This was a particularly potent charge at a time of war between Britainand Revolutionary France. Wesleyan sensitivity over this issue partly accounts for theconference’s aversion to calls for democracy within the societies and lay representation inthe decision-making process. This in turn led to the first major Methodist break-away church, theNew Connexion.] Satan was afraid that true religion was spreading too fast in the university:therefore inspired this old growling dr with a lying spirit to prevent it. More souls have beenconverted to God in Oxford within this year and half than ever was in that time since the Methodistsentered the place. We have had not less than forty-nine new member and most of them have obtainedredemption in the blood of Christ: and the congregation was large, many persons of credit attendedand at times a good number of the students...the spirits of our old Methodists were revived. Theythought the days were come they had been praying for. But the lying prophet of Lincoln College...hasprevented the word of the Lord from having free course. Our congregations are small, but we havereason to be thankfull that most of our young converts stand steadfast. Dr T’s sermon was anunprovoked insult. We did not trouble ourselves with the clergy and our people are very loyal. Wehave had the public thanks of Chairmen for our works of loyalty to the King...at first his sermonseemed to be much admired, and a great number of them have been sold for I think it is arrived tothe seventh edition. But I have lately heard that Mr Vice Chancellor and the heads of houses do notapprove of it...sensible the Dr has exposed the body of clergy to very great censure, and if theydid not approve of it why did they not prevent him preaching it in the churches...I hope you haveprepared a good scourge for that worthy divine ...one of his pupils last Sunday night spent abouttwo hours with me. He informed me that when Mr [John] Wesley’s name or Harvey’s or anyof the awakened ministers are mentioned, that he calls them fools, madmen etc. I have been informedthat Dr T lives in all the fashionable sins of Oxford such as ad-y [adultery], d-ss [drunkeness?]etc. A dissenting minister in Oxford wrote an answer to Tatham’s sermon but as it is a poorsoft cowardly thing, it has not been much admired. I expect yours will be capital. Therefore when itcomes out, I intend to...send it to send it to Dr and the Vice Chancellor and to as many of theheads of houses as I can learn the names of...’
The work is proceeding well in many parts of this circuit and the labours of many ofBaldwin’s colleagues have been blessed and likewise with his own feeble efforts. When he waspreaching at Newbury in Berkshire, the wife of a gentleman was very deeply affected by his sermon onRev.3.20 and she has subsequently opened her heart to the Lord. Baldwin has hopes of her husbandalso, although ‘he keeps hounds’ [ie hunts]. However, the gentleman has abandonedplaying cards and hopefully hunting will also follow. He regularly attends preaching and is verykind to Baldwin. It is to be hoped that soon all the preachers will be entertained at thisgentleman’s house, although at the moment only Baldwin is allowed to sleep there. Reference ismade to his preaching at a new place near Wallingford.
[Michael] Fenwick is here and Baldwin is grateful for that fact - Fenwick has done somepreaching and has been very ‘buoy’[?] in the face of the rioters. Fenwick brought someof them before the justices and some thought that he was a ‘counsellor’ [ie lawyer] whohad come from London to sort things out. It was a good thing that the justices were on the side ofthe Methodists - they have declared in open courts that the Methodists are loyal to the King andconstitution.
Baldwin is away from home for two months at a time which is quite burdensome. His health is poorand sometimes after preaching, he has been close to fainting. He has also lost a lot of blood. Oncehe returned home, he was able to get a little rest and medicinal help.
He will try to sell all the copies of Benson’s sermons, but if not, he will keep themuntil next year.
His wife joins in sending regards to Benson and his wife.
In a postscript, he mentions that he has written an answer to Tatham’s sermon. If he hadnot heard that Benson was addressing this issue, he would have undertaken to have his reply printedand circulated in a few days. Baldwin’s piece was written as soon as the sermon was preachedbut he waited to see the effects. His fellow preachers were very supportive as were peoplethroughout the circuit.
Mr [George] Story has written asking how many copies of Benson’s Reply to Tatham doesBaldwin want. He has asked for five hundred.
- Michael Fenwick (d.1797) entered the itinerancy in 1750 and servedan active circuit ministry for forty-seven years. He remained within Methodism despite a seriouspersonality clash with Charles Wesley. Source: Kenneth Garlick,An Alphabetical Arrangement of Wesleyan Methodist Preachers and Missionaries, andthe stations to which they were appointed 1739-1818 andPreachers' Letters Collection.