"Ah, Leicestershire," sighed John Wesley as his mount kicked
He had just taken his leave of the brethren at Markfield, the
foothold of his ministry in the Charnwood Forest, when a flushed
and breathless rider came galloping alongside. At once he
recognised John Coltman, a hosier from Leicester with whom he
had dined on several occasions. Not long ago the poor fellow had
been gravely depressed and had tried all manner of remedies
until the little preacher had laid hands on him and called down
the blessing of the Heavenly Physician.
"Mr Wesley, sir, I heard tell you were abroad in these parts.
Won't you come and speak to the good folk of the town?"
Wesley reached out and put a lightly consoling hand beneath
his companion's elbow. "I don't wilfully neglect them, my friend.
I must go where I'm most needed and the Spirit leads elsewhere.
There's a deal of trouble brewing in the Border Country since
Charles Edward Stuart landed on these shores."
"Ay, he'll do away wi' King George and turn us all into
"He's a long way to go before that, thank God. But we must
irony that we Methodists, as Dissenters from the Established
Church, are oftentimes mistaken for Catholics. Our sect is
everywhere spoken against."
"Then they suffer much in the North?"
"Praise God, they do!" beamed the wiry clergyman. "There's
nothing to make the gospel thrive so much as persecution. The
best Christians are to be found among the strongholds of the
devil. Go and tell them in the town to pray for a happy outcome
of these affairs and I engage to visit you on my return."
The comrades parted, the hosier to broadcast this heartening
exchange, the man of God to reflect on the phlegmatic nature of
these Midlanders. Many was the time he had passed through the
county and expounded the faith in its villages, but the area did
not beckon strongly enough and the town scarcely at all. They
were peaceable folk, he knew, spinners and weavers whose
grinding toil had brought a fair degree of economic stability to
the region. Sometimes they would rise in the small hours,
walking miles out of their way to hear his message before work
began, but though they listened with interest, they were slow to
respond. Materialism was their god and guide and they thought
nothing of plundering every wagon that entered the town gates to
sell its goods at inflated prices.
If only they could raise their heads above their wheels and
treadles and glimpse eternity.
from A House Not Made With Hands
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