Imatges de pàgina

My father George Lackington was a journeyman fhoemaker, who had incurred the displeasure of my grandfather for marrying my mother, whose maiden name was Joan Troit. She was the daughter of a poor weaver in Wellington; a good honeft man, whose end was reinarkable, though not very fortunate : in the road between Taunton and Wellington he was found drowned in a ditch, where the water scarcely covered his face. He was, 'tis conjectured,

- Drunk when he died. This happened some years before the marriage of my father and mother.'

The pictures of low life that follow are neither uninstructive nor uninteresting : that of Mr. L.'s mother supporting eleven children by her own labour, working nineteen hours in twenty-four, and living upon vegetables, while the furnithed her numerous offspring with rather better fare, is more pleasing than any scene in a sentimental novel. Mr. Li's boyith years are spent in mischievous tricks, and crying applepyes: then follow apparitions, with instances evincing their fallacy. Our author is then an almanac-seller, and at fourteen is bound an apprentice to a shoemaker. Soon‘after he commences methodist; and in this perfuafion he remained fome years. His scattered accounts of this sect form the beft articles in his book. Let us begin with Mr. Li's own coversion :

• I loon made a little progress in reading; and in the mean time I also went to the methodist meeting, to hear one Thomas Bryant, known in Taunton by the name of the damnation preacher; (he had just left off cobling' soles of another kind). liis sermon frightened me most terribly. I soon after went to hear an old Scotchman ; and he assured his congregation, that they would be damn'd, and double-damn'd, and treble-damn'd, and damn'd for ever, if they died without what he called faith. This marvellous doctrine, and noisy rant and enthusiasm, soon worked on my pasions, and made me believe myself to be really in the damnable condition thai.chey represented : and in this miserable fare I continued for about a month, being all that time unable to work myself up to the proper key. At lait, by singing and repeating enthusiastic amorous hymns, and presumptuously applying particular texts of scripture, I got my imagination to a proper pitch, was born again in an instant, became a very great favourite of heaven, and was as familiar with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as any old woman in Mr. Wesley's connection.'

Our author soon after gave the following specimen of his complete enthusiasm :


* Hitherto I had not frequented the methodist meetings by the consent or knowledge of my master and mistress; nor had my zeal been so great as make me violate their commands. But my zeal increased much faster than my knowledge, and I soon disregarded their orders, and without hesitation ran away to hear a methodistical fermon as often as I could find opportunity. One Sunday morning at eight o'clock, my mistress seeing her fons fet off, and knowing that they were gone to a methodist meeting, determined to prevent me from doing the fame, by locking the door, which she accordingly did ; on which, in a superstitious mood, I opened the Bible for direction what to do ignorant me. thodists often practise the same presumptuous method); and the first words I read were these : “ He has given his angels charge concerning thee, lest at any time thou shouldest dash thy foot against a stone.” This was enough for me. So without a moment's befiration, I ran up (wo pair of stairs to my room, and out of the window I leaped, to the great terror of my poor misa tress. I got up immediately, and ran about three hundred yards towards the meeting-house : but alas ! I could run no further; my feet and ancles were most intolerably bruised, so that I was obliged to be carried back and put to bed, and it was more than a month before I recovered the use of my limbs. I was ignorant enough to think (I mention it with horror and remorse!) that the Lord had not used me very well, and resolved not to put fo much trust in him for the future.'

The account of the prayer-meetings and of the love-feasts, in which the elect have buns to eat, which are broken between brother and Gister, and water to drink, presents curious pictures of fanaticism. We are happy, however, to find that the latter ceremonies begin about seven o'clock in the evening, and last only until nine, or after. The odd inftitution of watch-nights, classes, bands, and select bands, we shall communicate in our author's own words; and hope that the fin, gularity of the subject will excu£e the length of the extract:

- The watch-night begins about seven o'clock. They fing hymns, pray, preach, fing and pray again ; then exhort, fing and pray alternately, until twelve o'clock; and then they depart in peace, according to the word.

• Mr. Wesley, in every place where his people were numerous, had divided them into classes, consisting of twelve or fourteen bro. thers or fifters. Sometimes men and women meet together in the fame clafs, (as they call it) ; and other classes consisted of all men or all women. Each of these classes had one in it, who was called the leader. In such classes, where men and women mect together, the leader was always a brother; and so of course when


the class consisted of men alone. But in the women's classes a fif. ter was always the leader.

" When they met together, the leader first gave out an hymn, which they all sang : after the hymn they all kneeled down, and their leader made extemporary prayer ; after which they were seated ; and when the leader had informed them of the Atate of his own mind, he enquired of all present, one after another, how they found the state of their souls. Some he found were full of faith and assurance ; others had dreadful doubts and fears; some had horrid temptations; others complained of a lukewarm ftate, &c. To each of these the leader gave a word of comfort or of correction, in the best manner he was able. They then sang and prayed again. This laited about one hour. And every one in Mr. Wesley's connection did, or was expected to meet, each in his own class, once in a week. In these classes each made a weekly contribution towards the general fupport of the preachers, &c. Such as were very poor contributed a penny per week, others twopence, and some who could afford it fix-pence. This money was entered in a book kept for that purpose ; and one in every class, called the steward, had the care of the cash.

"I now come to speak of the bands, which consisted only of justified persons ; that is, such as had received the assurance of their fins being pardoned. In the classes, both the awakened (as they call them) and the justified, and even those that were made perfect, met all together, as did the married and the fingle, and often men and women. But none were admitted into any band but such as were at least in a justified state, and the married of each sex met by themselves, and the single by themselves. About ten was the number generally put in one band : all these must belong to and meet in some class, once a week, when not hinder. ed by fickness, &c. and they were also to meet weekly in their band. When met, they first fung, then made a short prayer : that done, the band-leader informed them of the state of his mind during the last week, &c. He then made enquiry into the state of all present, and each related what had passed since they last met; as, what visitations they had received from God, what temptations from the devil, the flesh, &c. and it is a maxim among them, that by exposing to one another what the devil has partie cularly tempted them to commit, will make the old fellow more careful how he tempts, when he knows that all his fecrets will be told the next meeting.'

• Mr. Wesley instituted another kind of private meeting for the highest order of his people, called the select bands; to which none were admitted but such as were sanctified, or made perfect in love, and freed from all the remains of fin, But as I never


profeffed perfe&ion, I was not permitted to enter into this holy of holies.

· Four times every year, new tickets are distributed to all Mr.' Wesley's people throughout the three kingdoms. Their ticket is a very small flip of paper, with a text of scripture on it, which is exchanged every quarter for some other text. Such as are only in a class have a different text from such as are in a band, so that no one can be admitted into any general meeting of the bands appointed by any of the preachers, when he intends to give them an exhortation, nor into any particular band, by a common som ciety ticket. On the common tickets are such texts as these : Now is the accepted time-Awake, thou that neepest; and such like. But those for the bands are in a higher strain ; as, Be ye perfed, as your heavenly Father is perfect ;-or, Go on unto per. fection ;-Ye are children of the light ;- Your bodies are tema ples of the Holy Ghost;Land other texts of a similar tendency.”

Mr. I.. leaves the methodists, and goes to Bristol. After some insignificant adventures, we at length (letter xyi.) find him arrived in London in August 1774, where he is still a shoemaker, and again a methodist : but in Letter xxii. he'narrates his final relinquilhment of that sect.

• Having begun to think rationally, and reason freely on reli.. gious matters, you may be sure I did not long remain in Mr. Wesley's society; and what is remarkable, I well remember that, some years before, Mr. Welley told his society in Broadmead, Briftol, in my hearing, that he never could keep a bookseller fix months in his flock. He was then pointing out the danger that attended close reasoning in matters of religion and spiritual concerns, in reading controversies, &c. At that time I had not the least idea of my ever becoming a bookseller: but I no sooner began to give scope to my reasoning faculties than the above remarkable affertion occurred to my mind.'

At his preceding accounts of the methodists, the reader may smile; but at the following sentence, which Mr. L. produces from a pamphlet written against Mr. Fletcher by Mr. R. Hill, he may tremble :

• David flood as completely justified in the everlasting righteousness of Christ, at the time when he caused Uriah to be murdered, and was committing adultery with his wife, as he was in any part of his life. For all the fins of the elect, be they more or be they leli, be they past, present, or to come, were for ever done away. So that every one of those elect stand spotless in the fight of God.'

In Letter XXIV. the methodists are again treated tragically and comically; but not to exceed upon this subject, we CRIT. Rev. N. AR. (IV.) Jan. 1792.


fhall only observe, that Mr. L. juftly points out the danger of ale lowing methodist preachers to attend condemned malefactors, as by their fanatical conversation, visionary hymns, bold and impious applications of scripture, &c. many horrid criminals have been worked into raptures, and have teft the world rather as martýřs than with the exemplary contrition of public offenders. In the comic style we have methodist signs, not signs of grace, but figns of sale ; as, “Rumps and burs sold here, and baked theep's heads every night, if the Lord permit.' Tripe and cow-heels fold here as usual, except on the Lord's day, which she Lord help me to keep.' Roger Tuttel, by God's grace, and mercy, kills rats and moles.' The danger of Mr. We ley's book, called Primitive Physic, which is full of erroneous and hazardous receipts, is well pointed out by our author ; who, in the fame letter, observes the increase of the Swedenborgians; a feet certainly more manly and rational than that of the methodifts.

We now retom to consider Mr. Lv in his proper character, that of an industrious bookseller. In June 1775 he opened a fhop, or rather a stall, of books; and leather, worth about five pounds, in Feathertone-street, in the parish of St. Luke. Soon after he entered into partnership with Mr. Denis, an oilman, in 1778, who advanced money in proportion to Mr. Li's ftock of books. Their first catalogue was published in 1779 : but Mr. Denis foon abandoned the partnership, being afraid that Mr. Li's pushing fpirit might lead him into risques. In 3780 our author freft refolved to give no credit in his business, and was thus enabled to underfell other booksellers; a plan to which he owes great part of his fuccefs : but perhaps the fituation of his shop, and the want of a bookseller with a large stock in that end of the town, contributed to his good fortune.

We shall extract one other passage from his work, as relat. ing to a subject of which he must be a good judge :

• Before I conclude this letter, I cannot help obferving, that the sale of books in general has increased prodigiously within the last twenty years. According to the best estimation I have been able to make, I suppose that more than four times the number of books are fuld now than were sold twenty years since. The poorer sort of farmers, and even the poor country people in general, who before that period spent their evenings in relating itories of witches, ghosts, hobgoblins, &c. now shorten the nights by hearing their fons and daughters read tales, romances, &c. and on entering their houses, you may see Tom Jones, Roderick Random, and other entertaining books, tuck up on their bacona sacks, &c. and if Johë goes to town with a load of hay, he is


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