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Street Preaching Stories


The year 1743 was remarkable for dreadful riots in Staffordshire, in which, at one time, Wesley himself seemed to be in imminent peril. In the early part of the year he preached twice in Wednesdbury Town Hall as well as in the open air, his brother Charles having visited the town some weeks previously. Wednesbury was then famous for barbarous sports, such as cock-fighting and bull-baiting, in which the half-savage miners and others delighted. There was one advantage, however; such people when once attracted were too hardy to be frightened away from the outdoor services by any kind of weather which the preacher himself was content to brave. Wind, sleet, or snow did not hinder Wesley from taking his stand if there was a congregation to address, and on one occasion at Newcastle we find him giving his message in a freezing wind until he was 'encased in ice.'

For a fortnight, Wesley and Nelson slept on a floor without proper bedding; their table at meal times was equally bare. The preachers were content not only to endure such things, but to turn them into pleasantry. On rising of a morning, Wesley would urge his friend to be of good cheer because the hard boards had not worn the skin off both of his sides. 'Brother Nelson, we ought to be thankful that there are plenty of blackberries,' he remarked on another occasion, while he reined in his horse in order to gather a supply; ' for this is the best country I ever saw for getting an appetite, but the worst for getting food.'

In regard to his northward journey commenced on February 18, 1745,Wesley says that of all the rough journeys he had undertaken that was the roughest, 'between wind, and hail, and rain, and ice, and snow, and driving sleet.' His preachers caught the enthusiasm which animated their leader, and thus bore hardship without complaint.

On this trip, though he had preached thrice during the day, and had traveled over sixty miles of bad roads, Wesley had another service at five o'clock on the next morning, many of the people refusing to go to bed through fear of oversleeping, and thus not being present.

John Wesley
The Man and His Mission