John Wesley first preach in Newcastle (1742)

John Wesley's Journal

Thur. 27 1742. — We left Birstal and on Friday, 28, came to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I read, with great expectation, yesterday and today, Xenophon’s “Memorable things of Socrates.” I was utterly amazed at his want of judgment. How many of these things would Plato never have mentioned! But it may be well that we see the shades too of the brightest picture in all heathen antiquity. We came to Newcastle about six; and, after a short refreshment, walked into the town. I was surprised: So much drunkenness, cursing, and swearing, (even from the mouths of little children,) do I never remember to have seen and heard before, in so small a compass of time. Surely this place is ripe for Him who “came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”Sat. 29. — I was informed that one Mr Hall had been there about a year before, and had preached several times, but I could not learn that there was the least fruit of his labour; nor could I find any that desired to hear him again, nor any that appeared to care for such matter. Sun. 30. — At seven I walked down to Sandgate, the poorest and most contemptible part of the town; and, standing at the end of the street with John Taylor, began to sing the hundredth Psalm. Three or four people came out to see what was the matter; who soon increased to four or five hundred. I suppose there might be twelve or fifteen hundred, before I had done preaching; to whom I applied those solemn words, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.” Observing the people, when I had done, to stand gaping and staring upon me, with the most profound astonishment, I told them, “If you desire to know who I am, my name is John Wesley. At five in the evening, with God’s help, I design to preach here again.” At five, the hill on which I designed to preach was covered, from the top to the bottom. I never saw so large a number of people together, either in Moorfields, or at Kennington-Common. I knew it was not possible for the one half to hear, although my voice was then strong and clear; and I stood of have them all in view, as they were ranged on the side of the hill. The word of God which I set before them was, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely.” After preaching, the poor people were ready to tread me under-foot, out of pure love and kindness. It was some time before I could possibly get out of the press. I then went back another way than I came, but several were got to our inn before me; by whom I was vehemently importuned to stay with them, at least, a few days; or, however, one day more. But I could not consent; having given my word to be at Birstal, with God’s leave, on Tuesday night. Some of these told me, they were members of a religious society, which had subsisted for many years, and had always gone on in a prudent, regular manner, and been well spoken of by all men. They likewise informed me what a fine library they had; and that the Steward read a sermon every Sunday. And yet how many of the publicans and harlots will go into the kingdom of heaven before these! Mon. 31. — About three I left Newcastle.

Additional Information

The above photo is taken from the top of Sandgate which Wesley mentions as the place where he began preaching in Newcastle. Tradition has it that he first spoke on the Quay, and his memorial (see below) is about 200 yds SW from the top of Sandgate.

He mentions below that people were gathered on a hill. This is likely to be a little north of Sandgate, but clearly not by the river.

Newcastle was a very important centre for Wesley, on a par with Bristol and London.

The fact that so many people were there, that they received him with so much enthusiasm and Wesley bought land for a new church the following year, leads me to believe that a revival took place at the time of the meeting or after.

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