Notes on Crowds from John Wesley’s Journal

In review, there is not a whole lot of information that you can gather if you simply search the word “crowd” through an online search of John Wesley’s Journal. A further study would have to be done on the causes of this crowding phenomenon. One thing is for sure: Wesley’s crowd phenomenon was not due to using money, trivia, magic tricks, perverted shock and awe preaching, or any such gimmicks. The crowding seemed to be the result of what you might call a “personality cult,” in sociology. People came to see the man John Wesley. Much like things were with Billy Graham’s crusades. Many people came to see the man, not hear the message. The message could be heard in any local church. Ray Comfort had The Way of the Master program on TBN. If any kind of crowding is to be intended, then an evangelist would have to succumb to the things that would make a name for himself, whatever that means. With the modern SOAPA movement, it has been YouTube; and it seems that the same could be said for any other street preacher. I’d also say that content is absolutely important. Here you can see Wesley preaching to crowds on the subjects of salvation, returning backsliders, the forgiveness of sins, the narrow gate, materialism, the day of judgment, the four last things, repentance, the Atonement, and contemplation of Christ.

The church was much crowded, though a thousand or upwards stayed in the churchyard.  In the afternoon I explained further the same words, “What must I do to be saved?” I believe some thousands were then present, more than had been in the morning.

The church was so excessively hot (being crowded in every corner), that I could not, without difficulty, read the evening service. Being afterward informed that abundance of people were still without who could not possibly get into the church, I went out to them and explained that great promise of our Lord, “I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely” [Hos. 14:4].

I preached at eight on Chowden Fell on “Why will ye die, O house of Israel?” [Ezek. 33:11]. [mobs, riots, poor people throwing things]

In the evening we reached St. Ives.  At seven I invited all guilty, helpless sinners who were conscious they “had nothing to pay” to accept of free forgiveness. The room was crowded both within and without; but all were quiet and attentive.

“Lord, are there few that be saved?” [Luke 13:23]

A huge multitude, rich and poor, horse and foot, with several coaches, were soon gathered together; to whom I cried with a loud voice and a composed spirit, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Some thousands of the people seriously attended; but many behaved as if possessed by Moloch. Clods and stones flew about on every side; but they neither touched nor disturbed me.

At two it was filled with a rude, wild multitude (a few of a better spirit excepted). Yet all but two or three gentlemen were attentive, while I enforced our Lord’s words, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

The house, notwithstanding the new galleries, was extremely crowded in the evening. I strongly exhorted the backsliders to return to God.

At eight I preached in the High School yard, and I believe not a few of the hearers were cut to the heart. Between twelve and one a far larger congregation assembled on the Castle Hill. I believe my voice commanded them all while I opened and enforced those awful words, “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God” [Rev. 20:12].

The house was crowded greatly; and I suppose all the gentry of the town were part of the congregation. Resolving not to shoot over their heads, as I had done the day before, I spoke strongly of death and judgment, heaven and hell. This they seemed to comprehend; and there was no more laughing among them, or talking with each other; but all were quietly and deeply attentive.

No sound was heard, either from them or the crowded audience, after the text was named: “There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, that need not repentance” [see Luke 15:7]. The power of the Lord was eminently present, and most of the prisoners were in tears.

We were extremely crowded; but the power of God was so manifested while I declared, “We preach Jesus Christ, and him crucified” [I Cor. 1:23; 2:2].

St. Paul’s, Shadwell, was still more crowded in the afternoon, while I enforced that important truth, “One thing is needful”; and I hope many, even then, resolved to choose the better part.

About Wesley Gospel is self-published in the spirit of John Wesley and the Reformers, as when they used the printing press. The truth of God won't be censored or suppressed!
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