Bethel New Connexion Methodist Chapel, Burslem - William Booth (1855)

Jan 29th - I arrived here in Burslem about 9 o'clock on Saturday, after a very cold and wearisome journey. I found a hearty welcome from the friends where I am now staying and they do all they can to make me happy. It is a very nice town, containing about 1,500 inhabitants. The chapel is a very unique and comfortable one, rather small, will hold about 800 persons, I never preached to a congregation so packed in my life as it was last night, and I suppose hundreds went away unable to obtain admission; all up the pulpit stairs, in the aisles, in the rails, in fact wherever there was standing room. I preached with a little liberty and some power and about 40 names were taken down during the progress of the prayer meeting. The Love Feast in the afternoon was a very interesting one on the whole: it was the best beginning I have as yet been privileged to have.

Feb 1st - Monday evening was a very heavy and painful one. We had two meetings after the sermon, one in the chapel and one in the schoolroom. We took down 23 names. although it was one of the most confused meetings I ever was in. Tuesday and Wednesday evenings were the most triumphant I ever witnessed, under any circumstances. We confined the meeting to the chapel. Last night twice or thrice I became alarmed, the excitement was almost overwhelming; I feared for the people. I feared lest we should not be able to keep the reins of the meeting. The cries of distress were thrilling, piercing, running, as one gentleman expressed it, through you to your finger ends. Some were violent, commenced shrieking, clapping the forms, etc.; these I stopped directly; in fact, all the more violent I stopped as soon as I could. If I doubted, as in two instances, sincerity, I stopped them authoritatively ; if I had confidence in them I poured on the balm of Jesus’ salvation and the sweet promises of His Word, and they soon turned their tears and wailings into joy.

Amid all this, I could not help but reason. Is it right? Is this the best way? Perhaps I was severely tempted to believe it all a delusion? Perhaps it was my own unbelief, but it was strange that these thoughts should be passing in my breast while I stood upon the form, the calmest and at times the most unmoved in all that dense assembly, directing and controlling every movement of the meeting so far as such a number of excited beings could be controlled and guided.

The people are more ignorant here than in other places I have visited, many who come are backsliders, and they wring their hands, and strike their breasts, and beat the communion rail enough to melt and break hearts of stone. Tonight we shall have a crash and no mistake. The place is literally packed, sitting and standing every night.

From letters by William Booth in 'The Life of General William Booth', by Harold Begbie, Volume I, page 242-3.

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