Norfolk Street Chapel, Sheffield (1794)

The revival of religion in Sheffield, in the summer of 1794, was in the following manner: In the love-feast on Monday, June 30, there was nothing remarkable observed, either in speaking or in praying, till about the time when they were about to conclude. Mr Moon called upon one of the local preachers to pray. While he was pleading with God, he was carried out of himself with holy fervour, in an extraordinary manner. The Spirit of God came as a mighty rushing wind, filled the place where they were assembled, and overwhelmed every individual by its powerful influence. A few who did not understand it, and resisted it, were confounded, and in their error escaped as for their lives. There was presently a general, loud, and bitter cry in every part of the chapel.

Thus they continued praying and singing, till one or two o'clock the next morning. There was a prayer-meeting held in the chapel, for several successive nights; and the same powerful effects were wrought; the people continued together till a late hour, and very many sinners were converted from the error of their ways

Being detained from the love-feast by urgent business at home, I was much surprised with the accounts I received by one and another of the crying and apparent confusion in the chapel. In the evening I hastened to the place to see and hear for myself. Such a scene presented itself, as I had never witnessed in the church before! In one part I saw several on the ground, groaning as in the agonies of death! In other places persons were shrieking as if they were just about to drop into liquid fire! Many were praying with all their might, and others with joy beaming in their countenance were shouting glory to God! or singing praises to him from whom all blessings flow!

Through the divine Blessing, we have had a gradual in­crease, the greater part of the last year: many were enabled to testify that God, for Christ's sake, had forgiven their sins, and several backsliders were restored. At our Lady-day Quarterly Meeting we had a remarkably good Love-feast. The presence and power of God were unusually felt, and there was a cry among the people; but it was not attended with even the appearance of disorder. From this time, the work went more swiftly on, and a prayer-meeting was established at the chapel every morning at five o'clock. The prayer-meetings in private houses also became now abundantly more lively; so that, at times, they could not break up till near midnight. In these meetings some cried aloud for mercy, while others as loudly praised God for enabling them to believe to the saving of their souls.

Thus the work continued steadily prospering all through this Quarter; seven or eight, and sometimes more, being brought into liberty every week. But at our Jan quarterly love-feast the fire broke out in a more extraordinary and amazing manner. The meeting began with its usual calmness and order, and so continued till we were about to conclude. But while we thought hereon, a person came and requested our prayers for one in deep distress; and soon after, the same request was repeated for a woman in the gallery. I then desired two or three of the Local Preachers to go and pray with her, intending to keep my place and conduct the remaining part of the meeting with all possible decorum. It being however, a new thing, and to them not a little strange, they appeared reluctant to go. I knew not now what to do; I hesitated for a moment; — but the cry of distress still prevailing, I determined to sacrifice regularity to the season of usefulness which presented itself to me, I therefore went up into the gallery, and prayed with the afflicted person: but I must acknowledge, so awkwardly did I enter on this important duty, thro' my great attachment to order, that I found very little access to the Throne of Grace; and, perhaps, as a punishment of my reluctance to engage, and my awkwardness in performing, the work, I had not the answer of my prayer. When I con­cluded, one of the Local Preachers below, gave out a hymn and prayed. And now the power of God in a wonderful manner filled the place. The cries of the distressed instantly broke out like a clap of thunder from every part of the Chapel, and the person's voice who was engaged in prayer, though exceeding loud, could no longer be heard. I now determined to resume my place that I might, at least in some tolerable degree regulate our further proceedings. But before I could accomplish this design some of the Local Preachers had spread themselves among those who were so greatly distressed and were praying for them; while others came enquiring what I would with them to do. I recommended to them the same work in which their brethren were already employed; so that, I suppose, in two minutes ten little parties were praying in different parts of the Chapel at the same time. In a few minutes, one of our friends informed me that seventeen persons found peace with God in the Gallery, and perhaps, at least half that number below. I never saw anything like it. It could not but appear to an idle spectator all confusion, but to' those who were engaged therein it was a glorious regularity. It must be granted that cries for mercy and thanks for pardoning love, ascended in a wondrously mixed but grateful incense before the Heavenly Throne.

It now became impossible to keep the meeting any longer in the usual form of a love-feast, nor could we, but in a very irregular manner, make our customary collection for the Poor. The multitude came together, and the doors were thrown open. Many of those who entered found that God was there both to convince and convert before they left the place. As far as we could judge upwards of seventy persons found peace with God before the conclusion; which did not take place till near two in the morning. We could keep no regular Watch-night, but continued in prayer, exhorting, and encouraging the distressed, and praising God for those who were brought out of darkness into his marvellous light; which almost all under deep convictions experienced before they departed.

The next night between 7 and 8 o'clock, as our friends were engaged in prayer, the flame broke out again and continued bearing down everything before it till near one in the morning. The cries of the people were very loud, but as there were many un­concerned spectators present, who kept walking up and down in the Chapel, talking to each other, &c. I was sorry to observe that we had less regularity than on the preceding night. God however was graciously present, both to wound and to heal. The outpouring of the Spirit was now chiefly amongst young persons. It was marvellous to behold boys and girls of ten or twelve years of age, so violently agitated, and so earnestly engaged to obtain mercy, and more abundantly to observe the change which pardon­ing grace made even on some of their very countenances. Tho' sunk in the deepest distress, and crying out under the bitterest anguish; yet when the Comforter came, their faces shone with holy joy, and their eyes sparkled with divine rapture! They wondered, praised, and adored!--and then wrestled with the Lord for their elder relations. Even children sent on errands, entering the Chapel to see and hear this strange work, partook of the divine blessing and went away, giving glory to God for pardoning all their sins. And so rapid was its progress, that some were both convinced and justified in an hour's time. About half-past twelve o'clock, I made an attempt to gain the people's attention, by going into the Pulpit and sending the Local Preachers and Leaders to different parts of the Chapel for that purpose. This succeeded beyond my expectation; all were quiet; and now, by addressing myself to them in a way suited to the occasion, I was enabled to dismiss the assembly

On Wednesday likewise, about half-past seven o'clock, as our friends were holding another prayer-meeting, the goodness and power of God were displayed again. But they now met with considerable interruption from such as were collected to gainsay and mock. The kingdom of Satan was powerfully shaken, and his children were stirred up to support his sinking cause by endea­vouring to stop what they called the madness of the Methodists. Nineteen or twenty Constables, I was informed, were brought in. to the Chapel to watch over us. The good work however went on, and there was no business for them, except to behold the wonders of grace which God was working in the earth; and to become the astonished witnesses of that great Redemption which several found thro' the blood of Jesus.

In the three days above alluded to, one hundred persons, or up­wards, struggled into the gracious kingdom of our God and Saviour: besides a number that were now alarmed with a sense of their danger. Husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, not knowing the change that had taken place in each other during these opportunities, afterwards exulted together in the love of God, and admired the power of changing Grace.

Since that period, the work has proceeded in a less rapid, and of course, in a more regular way. Two or three, and sometimes four or five, have been brought to God at a prayer-meeting; and praised be the Lord, thus it continues still. Last Thursday night the meeting of the Bands was a particular season; it lasted from nine o'clock till near one in the morning; during which time, I am told, four or five persons were enabled to love God with their whole heart, and the rest were abundantly refreshed and strengthened.

Methodist Journal Vol,. XVIII. August, 1795.

Additional Information

The church was built in 1777 but replaced by the present building in 1906.