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society from being scattered, and the light of Methodistic truth lost to the neighbourhood, entreated his master (to whom he had bound himself an apprentice for seven years, and by whom he seems to have been both esteemed and loved) to open his house for preaching, and entertain the Preachers. With this request his master complied ; who, ere long, found the word of truth come with power to his own heart. There was hope in his death.
It was in the year 1770, and under the following circumstances, that Mr. Wood was first led to attempt to preach. On a Sabbath-day, a Local Preacher was expected at two o'clock. As the time of service drew near, and the congregation began to assemble, it was powerfully impressed on his mind that the Preacher would not come, and that he would have to preach in his stead. He endeavoured to shake off the impression, but in vain. He prayed to be delivered from it; but it became stronger and stronger, and greatly troubled him. He spoke to a person from a neighbouring society, who had been longer in the way than himself, and opened the distressing feelings of his heart to him. That friend judiciously remarked, that if the appointed Preacher came, and in time, he would be warranted in attributing the painful impression to the great troubler of the peace of God's Israel ; but if not, a strong indication would be afforded that it came from God, against whom it would be very perilous to fight. Sympathizing, however, with Mr. Wood's agitated feelings, he kindly offered, should the duty be found providentially to devolve upon him, to commence the service with singing and prayer. The hour arrived; the Preacher, who had not been known to fail in the fulfilment of any previous appointment, did not appear; so that he felt himself bound to attempt to supply his place. The word of God, by the Prophet Jeremiah, “ Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,” &c., (ix. 23, 24,) opened to his mind; and, though probably in an unpolished and superficial manner, he felt much liberty in the exposition and application of the subject. When the service was concluded, the young Preacher regarded the part he had taken as a call rendered imperative by the exigency of the moment, and not likely to be repeated : he felt thankful for the help afforded in his time of need, and concluded that his preaching duties were at an end. Little did he imagine that he had then only taken the first step in a course of ministerial service and suffering, which he would have to run with patience for sixty years before he would reach the goal. His hope of future exemption from this heavy cross was almost immediately annihilated. A second vacancy, occasioned by the absence of one of the Travelling Preachers, occurred; when Mr. Wood was officially requested to supply his place. Having attended to this, he again conjectured that his work was done. But no; on the following Sabbath-morning, while reading his favourite book,Kempis's “ Christian's Pattern,”—it was strongly impressed upon his mind, that he must go and preach that afternoon at a place about
eight miles distant, and at another village in the evening. At this he greatly wondered, well knowing that some one was appointed to both those places. The surprise of Mr. Wood may be imagined ; for in about half an hour afterwards a person called to inform him, that the father of the Local Preacher in question lay at the point of death; and to request that he would take the two appointments. The concurrence of the application with his previous impression, secured from him an undemurring compliance. Calls for help, from various places, were soon heard ; and fruit of his labours beginning to appear, he was encouraged to go forward. His trial sermon was preached and approved; his name was enrolled on the list of Local Preachers; and full occupation for all his Sabbath-days was allotted to him.
During a year from this period he enjoyed the full persuasion that he was in the path of duty : then doubts and fears respecting his call to the work were daily suggested, which occasioned pungent distress. Indeed, he became so deeply depressed by these harassing feelings, that he determined to relinquish it. To have executed this purpose, in the place where he lived, and in its immediate vicinity, would have been no easy task. Of his divine call to the work in which he had engaged, he appeared to be the only one who entertained a doubt. From his qualifications; the singular providential openings; the unanimous call of the spiritual office-bearers in the church ; and, above all, the seal of God fixed upon the labours of his servant, in the conversion of souls from sin to holiness-of all which the surrounding inhabitants were eye and ear witnesses ; they were fully satisfied that he was called of God: which, together with the conviction, more than once impressively lodged in his own heart, ought unquestionably to have silenced his scruples, and dispelled his fears. · But except he saw “signs and wonders,” he “would not believe.” That he might have no let or hinderance in relinquishing the work, Jonah-like, he fled; and, quitting the place of his residence, without any of his relations or friends knowing whither he was going, he journeyed to the city of Bristol. There he obtained employment, joined the society as a private member, and met in band; but, in order to avoid all solicitations to engagements in public, he carefully concealed the fact of his ever having attenpted to preach. What inward misgivings, what compunctious visitations of conscience, he had to endure, while thus wearing the garb of concealment, and swerving from the character of “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile,” (especially when in his band meeting, and alone with God in his closet,) cannot now be ascertained. The fear of man, or rather the fear of running before he was sent, had evidently brought him into a snare, out of which a gracious and overruling Providence bastened to extricate him, by the following extraordinary incident
Shortly after his settlement in Bristol, one day walking along
Merchant-street, he was met by a grave-looking, elderly man, whom he had never seen before, whom he never saw afterwards, and whose name he never learnt. This person, on approaching him, stood still, stopped him, and, in a solemn and impressive manner, thus accosted him: “Young man, what are you doing? You have fled from the work of the Lord. I was warned of you last night in a dream. Go home, and preach the Gospel :” and passed on. That Mr. Wood's unhappy state of mind must have been greatly aggravated by this strange occurrence, there can be no doubt. But whether even this almost, if not altogether, supernatural direction would have been promptly obeyed, considering his all-but-unconquerable aversion to the duty, may perhaps admit a doubt. However, he was speedily compelled, through bodily indisposition, probably occasioned, or at least augmented, by his mental anguish, to return home. There he wisely sought relief by opening his mind to the Rev. John Goodwin, the Superintendent of the Circuit; by whose advice and direction he was induced forthwith to resume the work of a Local Preacher; and, through Mr. Goodwin's recommendation, at the following Conference, (1773,) he was called into the itinerant ranks.
Up to, and long after, this period, small and feeble was the day of Wesleyan Methodism. Almost every where its interests were at a very low ebb. The number of Travelling Preachers, throughout the world, was only one hundred and thirty-five; the number of members in society, thirty-three thousand. Poverty and persecution were the general lot of the Preachers, of which Mr. Wood had his share. of his private purse, the entire contents of which would amount to no great sum, he had to purchase those indispensable appendages to a primitive Methodist Preacher,-a horse, and a pair of saddle-bags. Thus accoutred, he entered upon the labours of his first Circuit, Norwich, where four Preachers were stationed. They had, however, constantly to separate; and so long were those separations, that each of the three Helpers only saw his Superintendent once in four months. What was then termed “ the Norwich round,” included all the Circuits which now form the Norwich and Lynn Districts, and part of the London District also. To give to the numerous places they visited a very scanty supply of sermons, the Preachers had generally to preach every night in the week, and three or four times on the Sabbath-day. Incessantly travelling to and fro, they lived among the people. Household expenses, as a single man, Mr. Wood had but few : and it was well his claims were so small; for such also were his allowances. All that he received, in the course of the year, to provide apparel, furnish his library, and to meet sundry incidental expenses, was £4. 9s. But, amidst all his privations and toil, he was happy. His work was his delight; and he did not labour in vain. In this his first year, some individuals were awakened under his preaching, who “ witnessed a good confession" through life, and in death. One
fine-looking young man, under sentence of death in Bury St. Edmund's gaol, was visited by him; and, being deeply awakened by the Holy Spirit to a sight and sense of his lost condition, found mercy through the Saviour, and died happy in God.
In the spring of 1774 he attempted to preach in the street, at Beccles, in Suffolk; but in vain. He then went into a house which was procured for him, and preached to as many as could enter. When the service was ended, he and a friend, who had taken him from Loddon to Beccles in a light cart, left the place by a back way, and thus escaped the violent fury of a mob who had determined to throw the Preacher into the river. A gracious Providence preserved his life, and prevented abundance of evil. In other places, stones, and a variety of offensive missiles, were thrown with eagerness;
hard namies were given plenteously; and the Methodists, generally, were represented as the worst of human beings. The Preachers left the Circuit, at the end of the year, with an addition of forty members to the soci. ety, though even then they only amounted to five hundred and twentyfive. This success comforted him under what he terms, a small share of what many of his predecessors more abundantly partook; namely, persecution.
Similar scenes of opposition and success awaited him in his next (the Sussex) Circuit, whither he removed in the autumn of 1774, and where he continued two years; at the close of the first of which he was admitted into full connexion. Finding it expedient, after some months, to claim the protection of the law, and of the civil authorities, he presented himself in the Court of General Quarter Sessions for the county of Kent, in April, 1775; and did take, and subscribe, the several Oaths of Allegiance, Supremacy, and Abjuration, as appointed by law to be taken ; and, under virtue of the license so obtained, he continued to preach to the end of his days of labour. This protection did not, however, always avail to shield him from lawless outrage. In the year 1776 he had a narrow escape from death, by the violence and fury of a mob : he received many severe blows, the effects of which were felt by him for years afterwards; but, a thunder-storm coming on, the mob was dispersed, and he was left in the hands of a few friends, who tenderly cared for him. Mr. Wood writes, “ In most of the places in this Circuit, some persons were convinced of sin, and converted to God. A few of the prisoners in Maidstone gaol were also "plucked as brands from the burning.""
It is worthy of being recorded, that Mr. Wood's expenses in visiting the county gaol, once a fortnight, were cheerfully borne by that eminent saint, the Rev. Vincent Perronet, Vicar of Shoreham, in Kent; whose house and heart were always open to receive the Methodist Preachers : and it is remarkable, that while in the Sussex Circuit they found a comfortable home in the vicarage at Shoreham, where they were not only accommodated with board and lodging, but
were allowed to preach ; in another part of the same Circuit (namely, at Staplehurst) they were entertained with equal hospitality and kindness by the Rev. Jacob Chapman, a pious Dissenting Minister, and permitted, as often as they could, to officiate in his chapel. In their case, neither did “ Ephraim envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim." But such instances, in which the words of the Psalmist may be adopted, in reference to Christian men and Christian Ministers, differing widely from each other in articles of belief and modes of church government,-“Behold, how good and how pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity,”—are of rare occurrence even in the annals of Methodism,—“ the friend of all, the enemy of none.”
In the year 1776 Mr. Wood was appointed to the Pembrokeshire Circuit. IIere he was threatened with being placed in the stocks, if he ventured to preach, according to a notice which he had given in the town of Carmarthen. Preach, however, he did; but without haring to endure the threatened penal consequences,—the courage or resolution of the Chief Magistrate having failed him when his threat should have been carried into execution. An interesting congregation assembled, who heard the word with seriousness and profit: some, who had been induced to attend merely from curiosity, became constant hearers, and afterwards steady members of the society.
In 1777 he was removed to Brecon : but neither in this nor his former Welsh Circuit did he see, as he desired, “ of the travail of his" Redeemer's “soul.” In Wales, he says, he saw but little fruit; controversy ran high, and Calvinism, or rather rank Antinomianism, was the order of the day: yet even there he had a few seals to his ministry. In each of these Welsh Circuits, although only in the fourth and fifth years of his itinerancy, and a single man, he was made the Superintendent; or, as the term then was, the Assistant Preacher.
His next removal was to Bristol. During his residence in this Circuit a gracious rain descended upon God's inheritance at Paulton, where the society previously consisted of but thirty members, who were in a very low state as to their religious experience: they revived as the springing corn, and about one hundred were added to their number. The chief excellency of this revival was rather in the genuineness of the work, than in the increase of number. Convictions of sin were deep and permanent; and nothing less than the kingdom fixed within could satisfy the mourners. Hence few, very few indeed, who were then brought to the knowledge of the truth, ever left the Lord or his people.
In 1779 Mr. Wood was appointed to the Gloucester Circuit, which then included what are now the Gloucester, Stroud, Newent, Dursley, Cheltenham, Redditch, Evesham, Worcester, Bromsgrove, Stourport, and Stourbridge Circuits, and part of Banbury. During this year he had the honour of introducing Methodism into Kidderminster,-a