On the 7th of May, I opened my commission in St. Peter’s chapel, (Third Circuit,) and in the evening of the same day, we found that twenty-nine sinners had been converted to God, one half of whom were backsliders. The following evening the Rev. William Cattle preached a powerful sermon, and thirty-five found peace, through the blood of the Lamb; many of these were members, who had long boon groaning under condemnation for sin. We continued the meetings in this chapel with similar success until the 20th inst., when the total number converted was two hundred and fifty; of these, one hundred and twenty-eight were members, fifty-one backsliders, and the remaining seventy-three were from the world; of these, many were from adjacent towns, so that the actual increase will be very small, but the amount of good to the church of God cannot be estimated. On Saturday night, the 21st inst., we hold the usual band-meeting, in the Old St. Peter’s chapel. You may not understand this distinction. There are two chapels now standing upon the same premises. The old one is a plain substantial brick building, with a gallery, on three sides, erected in Mr Wesley’s time; the new one, a few yards distant, is a commodious edifice of the same material, accommodates perhaps two thousand four hundred persons, but more than three thousand are sometimes within its walls. The old chapel has been unoccupied for several years, and many of the pews have been removed. Here the Wesleys and Fletcher often preached.
This was the first Methodist chapel in Leeds; and from the following account given by the Rev. Charles Wesley, of a fearful accident, in which he was involved with many others, such a place of worship was greatly needed at that time: “I met the brethren at Leeds, and many others, in an old upper room; after singing, I shifted my place to draw them to the upper end. One desired me to come nearer the door that they might hear without. I removed again and drew the weight of the people after me. In that instant the floor sank. I lost my senses, but recovered them in a moment, and was filled with power from above. I lifted up my head first and saw the people under me, heaps upon heaps. I cried out, “Fear not! The Lord is with us. Our lives are all safe” and then, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” I lifted up the fallen as fast as I could and perceived by their countenances which were our children; several of whom were hurt, but none killed. We found, when the dust and tumult were a little settled, that the rafters had broken off short, close by the main beam. A woman lay dangerously ill in a room below, on the opposite side, and a child in the cradle, just under the ruins. But the sick woman, calling the nurse a minute before, she carried the child with her to the standing side, and all three were preserved. Another of the society was moved, she knew not why, to go out with her child just before the room fell. Above one hundred lay with me among the wounded; though I did not properly fall, but slid down softly, and lighted on my feet. My hand was bruised, and part of the skin rubbed off my head. One sister had her arm broken, and set immediately, rejoicing with joy unspeakable.
Another, strong in faith, was so crushed that she expected instant death. I asked her, when she got to bed, whether she was not afraid to die. She answered that she was without fear, even when she thought her soul was departing; and only said, in calm faith, “Jesus, receive my spirit.” Her body continues full of pain, and her soul of love. A boy of eighteen was taken up, roaring, “I will be good! I will be good!” They got his leg set, which was broken in two places. He had come as usual to make a disturbance and struck several of the women going in, till one took him upstairs for Providence to teach him better.
“The news was soon spread through the town and drew many to the place, who expressed their compassion by wishing all our necks had been broken. I preached out of the town in weariness and painfulness. The Lord was our strong consolation, however, and I more clearly see that a hair cannot fall to the ground without our heavenly Father.”
In the old sanctuary alluded to, Mr Wesley held his twenty-fifth Annual Conference, in 1769; during which it was determined to send out preachers to America. The printed Minutes of that Conference now lie before me: -
LEEDS, AUGUST 1, 1769.
“Question 13. - We have a pressing call from our brethren in New York (who have built a preaching-house) to come over and help them. Who is willing to go?
“Answer. - Richard Boardman and Joseph Pilmoor.
“Question 14. - What can we do further in token of our brotherly love? “Answer. - Let us make a collection among ourselves. This was immediately done, and out of it £50 were allotted towards the payment of their debt, and about £20 given to our brethren for their passage.”
Mr Wesley says in his Journal: “Sunday, July 30, 1769, Mr Crook being out of order, I read prayers and preached in Hunslet church [a short walk from where I am now writing - Larchfield House, Hunslet Lane, near Leeds], both morning and afternoon. At five, I preached at Leeds, and on Monday, 31st, prepared all things for the ensuing Conference. Tuesday, 1st, it began, and a more loving one we never had. On Tuesday, I mentioned the case of our brethren in New York, who had built the first Methodist preaching-house in America, who were in great want of money, but much more of preachers.”
The part of the chapel where Boardman and Pilmoor stood, when they offered themselves for the service in America, was pointed out to me to the right of the pulpit under the gallery. What interest do past events afford us when the results are fully unfolded! At the time of the above Conference, the number of Methodists throughout Great Britain and Ireland did not much exceed 28,000. The infant society in America was too small to be worthy of notice. This was the entire of Methodism in the world. Now, America alone numbers one million of members - ministered unto by four thousand travelling preachers, besides four hundred superannuated or worn out preachers, and eight thousand local preachers [Their number since 1843 has considerably increased]. Thus, Sir, you will perceive that the preachers alone of the Methodist Episcopal Church are equal to the standing army of the United States! - an event this that Mr. Wesley and the members of that Conference little anticipated. The number of members in Great Britain and Ireland, and in foreign stations, under the care of the British and Irish Wesleyan Conferences, is nearly half a million; and about fifteen hundred and fifty efficient ministers, besides supernumerary and superannuated preachers.
There are, besides, in Europe and America, not far short of half a million of Methodists under different titles; such as Primitive Association, Independent, New Connexion, Canadian, and Protestant Methodists, etc. All these have their respective ministers; and though they differ in the mode of church government, they preach the same doctrines, which Wesley taught, and are, I trust, aiming at the glory of God, the conversion of sinners, and the salvation of a lost world.
It appears from the Minutes alluded to, that the name of Francis Asbury [afterwards Bishop Asbury], did not stand in the list of preachers in full connection, till the Conference of 1769, as also Richard Whatcoat. Their names are placed next to each other. Asbury, it seems, was admitted on trial as a preacher in 1767, and was received into full connection in 1768.
When Boardman and Pilmoor offered themselves for the American work, Asbury little thought what hard labours and exalted honours awaited him in that country. Pilmoor was admitted into full connection in 1766, in Leeds; three years after, in the same place, he volunteered for America.
It was not till the Bristol Conference, 1771, that Francis Asbury was appointed to the Western world.
The Rev. Thomas Harris, Superintendent, partly to gratify us, and also to accommodate the unusual number expected to attend the Saturday night band-meeting, had the sacred spot prepared for our reception. I can scarcely describe my sensations, on taking my seat with the other ministers and glancing around the venerable edifice. Mr Wesley was fond of large pulpits; this one is capable of holding seven or eight it persons very comfortably. We had a noble assembly, many of them the choicest saints of God; and this “holy house,” the birthplace of thousands now in glory, and where multitudes, low in the dust, worshipped in years gone by, was, once more, vocal with the praises of God and the loud hallelujahs of his people. Never before have I seen or heard so many witnesses for entire sanctification. The deep and rich experience of the fathers and mothers in Israel, who had long enjoyed this blessing, mingled with the ardent and decided testimonies of those who had been lately purified, more than eighty of whom, during the last two weeks, had experienced the blessedness of those who are pure in heart. Towards the close of the meeting, Mr Harris, observing the intense feelings of those who were seeking purity, requested such to retire into an adjoining classroom, and that a few leaders would assist them in prayer. Many did so; and between twenty and thirty obtained the blessing of a clean heart, while we continued the service in the chapel.
This is truly a great and glorious revival of holiness. If proper care be taken of these precious believers, and the blessing kept fully before the people from the pulpit, the entire church may soon be a leavened and holy people unto the Lord. Were the preachers, after these special services shall have ceased in the town, to appropriate one night in the week to preach expressly upon entire sanctification, it would greatly tend to this desirable result; and those who have been made clean would then, it is most likely, be preserved. God sanctifies the people by belief of the truth, John xvii. 17, - truth clearly, pointedly, and frequently preached.
Whew the pulpit is silent, or indistinct, or has long intervals upon the doctrine of entire holiness, it is seldom you will find many clear on these “deep things of God,” and few professing their reception. My soul has often paused, in holy awe and adoring wonder, in marking how closely the Holy Ghost attends with his blessing the frequent exhibition, from the pulpit, of this glorious privilege of all believers. I have observed, during this revival, that when justification has been the subject of discourse, few have professed sanctification; but invariably, when holiness has been the theme many bare been the witnesses of purity of heart. Whatever class of truth, it would appear, is brought to bear upon a congregation, the Holy Spirit condescends to make that the medium of an according blessing.
Perhaps it is on the same principle we can account for the fact, that in those congregations where justification by faith and the witness of the Spirit are not preached, few, if any, are raised up to testify that Jesus Christ hath power upon earth to forgive sins; whereas, just the contrary takes place where these are clearly and fully preached On the last Sabbath in July, I returned to St. Peter’s chapel, which is almost equal in size to Oxford place, and continued there two weeks. During that time, two hundred persons obtained the blessing of sanctification, ninety-five of whom were from country circuits. One hundred and ninety individuals professed justification; fifty of this number was already a member in the St. Peter’s circuit, and the remainder were from other churches and the world. Those who were converted from the world, and resided in the neighbouring circuits, had notes given them, as an introduction to the leaders of classes in the Wesleyan society; that they might have the benefit of weekly instruction, and become candidates for church membership. I have not been able to ascertain the increase, during the two weeks, to the church in St. Peter’s; but I doubt whether it amounts to more than fifty. With the Superintendent of the St. Peter’s circuit, and his worthy colleagues, the Rev. Charles Cheetham and the Rev. William Cattle, I laboured in great harmony. They are self-denying and zealous servants of God, well acquainted with revivals of religion; and they have entered most heartily into the present movement. In the above chapel, they have more than their share of the poor; but they are rich in faith: many of them have been acquainted, for a long time, with the deep things of God. They were noisier during the services here than in any other circuit in town, but Mr Harris had them generally under perfect control. There were seasons, however, when his voice of authority was lost amidst their hallelujahs. It gladdened my heart to see men and women, clothed in the coarsest garb, feasting upon the richest blessings of the gospel of peace, and rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Were I a resident of Leeds, and desired a close walk with Christ, and lessons on the deep things of God, though worth thousands, I would choose for my place of worship, the St. Peter’s Wesleyan chapel. I would sit at the feet of these poor saints, and learn from them how to watch and pray, live by faith, despise the world, conquer hell, and take the kingdom of heaven by violence.
On the following week I preached farewell sermons in St. Peter’s, Brunswick, and Oxford place chapels, with much comfort to my own mind, and, I trust, profit to others. We have taken some pains to obtain statistics of the revival, with regard to conversions, and as correct as possible. We find that upwards of sixteen hundred persons have professed justification. This embraces the work carried forward in the chapels of the Leeds four circuits. In my letters to you and ***, I have classed the new converts, so that you could see what proportion were Wesleyan, and from other churches and circuits in the country, and from the world.
Taken from 'Methodism in Earnest' from www.revival-library.org
The chapel no longer exists.