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Limerick

John Wesley visited the city on 17 occasions between 1749 and 1789. The first Irish Conference met there in 1752 and the third in 1758. Philip Embury and Barbara Heck, Irish Palatines and pioneers of Methodism in New York, sailed from there in 1760, and it was the home of Wesley's hostess and correspondent Mrs Elizabeth Bennis.

Quotations

John Wesley's Journal:

May 1749: 'Between six and seven I preached at Mardyke (an open place witout the walls) to about two thousand people; not one of whom I observed to laugh, or to look about, or to mind anything but the sermon.

'Some years since an old abbey here was rebuilt, with a design to have a public service therein; but, that design failing, only the shell of it was finished. Of this (lying useless) the society had taken a lease. Here I preached in the morning …to six or seven hundred people…

[Whit Sunday] 'Our church was more than full in the morning, many being obliged to stand without. I hardly knew how the time went, but continued speaking till near seven o'clock. I went at eleven to the cathedral. I had been informed it was a custom here for the gentry especially to laugh and talk all the time of divine service; but I saw nothing of it. The whole congregation, rich and poor, behaved suitably to the occasion.

'In the evening I preached to a numerous congregation on "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink." We afterwards met the society. Six or seven prisoners of hope were set at liberty this day.

[Next day]: 'A company of revelers and dancers had in the afternoon taken possession of the place where I used to preach. Some advised me to go to another place; but I knew it needed not. As soon as ever I came in sight, the holiday mob vanished away…

[One week later]: 'The more I converse with this people, the more I am amazed. That God hath wrought a great work among them is manifest; and yet the main of them, believers and unbelievers, are not able to give a rational account of the plainest principles of religion. It is plain God begins His work at the heart; then "the inspiration of the Highest giveth understanding." '

June 1749: 'I preached… in the evening … at Limerick, on "Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous."

'Four comfortable days I spent with this lively people, the like to whom I have not found in all the kingdom.'

May 1750: 'The church was full at five, and one may truly say it was fulkl of the presence of God. The evening was cold and blustering, so that I was obliged to preach, though there was by no means room for the congregation. I aftrwards told the society freely and plainly of their faults. They received it as became men fearing God.'

June 1750: [Whit Sunday] 'Our morning service began, as usual, at four o'clock. In the evening I preached at Mardyke to four or five times as many as our church would have contained…'

August 1752: 'I spent Friday and Saturday in conference with our preachers, and the next week spake with each of the members of the society, many of whom, I now found, were "rooted and grounded in love" and "zealous of good works." '

June 1756: 'In examining the society I was obliged to pause several times. The words of the plain, honest people came with so much weight as frequently to stop me for a while, and raise a general cry among the hearers.'

June 1758: 'Our little Conference began, at which fourteen preachers were present. We serttled all things here which we judged would be of use to the preachers or the societies, and consulted how to remove whatever might be an hindrance to the work of God.'

July 1758: 'I preached in the island near Limerick, both morning and evening, standing on the side of a large hollow adjoining to the old camp. The ground on the sides of it sloped upward, so that the people sat on the grass, row above row. Such an amphitheatre I never saw before, in which thousands of hearers were so commodiously placed, and they seemed earnestly to attend to our Lord's invitation. "Come, for all things are now ready!" '

July 1760: 'I met the classes in Limerick, and found a considerable decrease. And how can it be otherwise, when vice flows as a torrent, unless the children of God are all life, zeal, activity? In hopes of quickening them, I preached at seven in the old camp to more than twice the usual congregation; which the two next evenings was more numerous still, and equally attentive. I was pleased to see a little army of soldiers there, and not a few of their officers. Nor did they behave as unconcerned hearers, but like men that really desired to save their souls.

[Next day, Sunday] 'I took my leave of that comfortable place, where some thousands of people were assembled. I have seen no such sight since I came to the kingdom. They not only filled the lower ground, but completely covered the banks that surround it, though they stood as close as possible. I exhorted them to "ask for the old paths, and walk therein," that they might "find rest to" their "souls." We had afterwards a solemn meeting of the society, in confidence that God would revive His work.'

May 1762 {Sunday]: 'I preached in the old camp. The pleasantness of the place, the calmness of the evening, and the convenient distance from the town, all conspired to draw the people together, who flocked from every quarter, Many officers, as well as abundance of soldiers, were among them, and behaved with the utmost decency. I preached the following evenings at the same place, and that in great measure for the sake of the soldiers, it being within a musket-shot of the place where they were exercising. Nay, two evenings an officer ordered a large body to exercise on the very spot; but the moment I began they laid down their arms and joined the rest of the congregation.'

June 1762: 'I rode to Limerick. I had promised to come again if our brethren found a convenient place to build a preaching-house. One now offered, proper in all respects.

July 3, Saturday: 'I met the society, and inquired what each was willing to subscribe. A considerable sum was subscribed immediately.

[Sunday] '… At the lovefeast in the evening it appeared that God had now visited Limerick also. Five persons desired to thank God for a clear sense of His pardoning love; several others for an increase of faith, and for deliverance from doubts and fears. And two gave a plain, simple account of the manner wherein God had cleansed their hearts, so that they now felt no anger, pride, or self-will; but continual love, and prayer, and praise.'

June 1765: 'I rode to Limerick, and found the preaching-house just finished. I liked it the best of any in the kingdom; being neat, yea elegant, yet not gaudy.

[Next day, Sunday] 'In the evening I preached at Mardyke. The heat was violent, even at six; nevertheless there was a numerous congregation, both of Protestants and Papists. Some of the latter behaved with remarkable indecency - talking and laughing as at a play. I turned and reproved them. They took it well, and neither laughed nor talked any more.

'In the folllowing week I spoke to each member of the society, and had much saatisfaction among them. Concerning several of them, there is all reasonable proof that they have given God all their heart; many others are groaning after full salvation; and all the rest are free from outward blame…

[Three days later]: 'In the evening I preached near Mardyke, on a smooth, grassy place, to, I think, the largest congregation which I ever saw in Limerick. A solemn awe seemed to sit on every face while I declared in strong words, "He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him." The next day the rain began; so that all the following days I was constrained to preach in the house.'

May 1767: 'The continued rain kept me from preaching abroad this week; and I was scandalized at the smallness of the congregation in the house. I am afraid my glorying touching many of these societies is at an end… At Limerick itself, I find only the remembrance of the fire which was kindled two years ago. And yet one of the two preachers who was here last year was almost universally admired! But, alas! How little does this avail! …

[Next day, Sunday]: 'The weather being fair, I took my stand in the Old Camp, and had, I believe, as many hearers as all the preceding weel put together. There was a solemn awe throughout the congegation, and I began to hope God would revive His work.

[Next day] 'I spoke to the members of the society severally; most of them appeared to be honest and upright. But a general faintness seemed to have spread among them; there was no zeal, no vigour of grace…

[Sunday] 'The Old Camp would ill contain the congregation, closely wedged in together. Afterwards we had a solemn hour at the meeting of the society, in which God caused many of the bones which had been broken to rejoice. So they are set upon their feet once again. Now let them run with patience the race set before them.'

May 1769: 'This evening I preached in the room; and at eight in the morning, Whit Sunday, but was much scandalized at the smallness of the congregation. In the evening I preached in the Old Camp, where the congrgation was larger than it had been for several years. So it was on Monday and Tuesday evening. But still I observed none wounded among them, nor anything more than a calm, dull attention…

'We observed Friday the 19th as a day of fasting and prayer for a revival of His work. Many attended both at five, nine, and one, but abundance more at the watchnight. And then it was that God touched the hearts of the people, even of those that were "twice dead".

[Sunday]: 'I was in hopes of taking the field in the afternoon, but the rain prevented. Yet I did not repent of the disappointment, so great was the power of God in the midst of us. I believe few were untouched; many were deeply wounded; many rejoiced with joy unspeakable... God employed His two-edged sword on every side in a manner I had not seen here for many years.'

May 1771: 'I … told the congregation plainly, "If, as is your manner, you attend three days, and then fall off, I can bestow my time better elsewhere; but if you continue to come, I will stay with you longer." They took me at my word, and continued to increase both morning and evening as long as I stayed in the city.

[Whit Sunday]: 'The ground in the island being wet, I preached in the evening near the new custom-house, on "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink." I was not a little refreshed, observing so many who seemed to thirst for living water. I preached there again the following evening to nearly the same number of hearers. I should have thought it well worth while to have come to Limerick, were it only for these two evenings….

[Five days later]: I spoke severally to the members of the society in Limerick. I have found no society in Ireland, number for number, so rooted and grounded in love. We observed this as a day of fasting and prayer, and were much comforted together.'

May 1773: 'Here I found, as in time past, a settled, serious people, but in danger of sinking into formality… [Six days later] After the morning preaching I met the select society. All of these once experienced salvation from sin; some enjoy it still, but the greater part are, more or less, shorn of their srength, yet not without hope of recovering it.'

May 1775: 'I preached to a large congregation of Papists and Protestants in the yard of the Custom House, where many could hear within as well as without…

[Four days later:] 'I examined the society at Limerick, containing now a hundred and one persons, seven less than they were two years ago. I a little wonder at this, considering the scandal of the cross is wellnigh ceased here, through the wise and steady behaviour of our brethren. But they want zeal; they are not fervent in spirit; therefore, they cannot increase.'

May 1778: 'I felt in the evening the spirit of the congregation, the same as many years ago; but in one circumstance I observed a considerable change: I used to have large congregations at my first coming to Limerick; but from the first day t hey gradually decreased. It was not so now; but poor and rich, Protestants and Papists, flocked together from the beginning to the end. Had they a presage that they should see my face no more?'

May 1785: 'In the evening we found many of our old friends at Limerick were removed to Abraham's bosom.

[Next day, Whit Sunday:] 'The service at the cathedral began at eleven and lasted till three. It concluded a little sooner, by my assisting at the Lord's Supper, at the request of the clergymen. Between five and six I took my stand near the custom-house, amidst an innumerable multitude of people; but they were

            Wild as the untaught Indian's brood.

They made such a wonderful noise that I judged it best to give them the ground, and retire to our own house.

[Next day:] 'I restored the select society, which had been quite neglected. In the evening I earnestly exhorted all our brethren to set out again in the good old way, and to run with patience the race that is set before them.'

May 1787: 'Here were always an affectionate people; but I never found them so much so as now. It was too cold in the evening to stand abroad, so we squeezed as many as possible into the preaching-house. I preached on "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart." Many here once experienced this, but few, if any, retain it now!

[Next day:] 'The congregation at five filled the house almost s well as it was filled in the evening. Finding a remarkable deadness, I inquired what were the reasons of it; and found, (1) There had been, for several months, a deep misunderstanding between the preachers and the chief of the society. Hence, on the one hand, the preachers had litle life or spirit to preach; and, on the other, the congregation dwindled away. (2) Many had left off meeting their bands and many others seldom met their classes. (3) Prayer-meetings were entirely given up. What wonder if all the people were grown dead as stones?

'In the evening I endeavoured to reawaken those that were settling upon their lees by strongly applying those solemn words, "The first shall be last, and the last first; for many are called, but few are chosen." In the morning … I endeavioured to stir them up once more to hunger and thirst after righteousness, after the whole image of God… After morning service I met the stewards and leaders, and inquired into the rise of the late misunderstanding…

Every time I preached I found more and more hope that God will revive His work in this city. I know He will if the prayer-meetings are restored; these are never without fruit.'

May 1789: 'At six the house would not contain the congregation. I preached on "There is one God;" and it seemed as if all under the roof were sensible of His presence.

[Next day:] I was not well able to preach in the morning; so Joseph Bradford took my place…

[Next day:] 'I preached in the morning on Rev. ii.4,5; in the evening on Luke iv.18. All the congregation were, for the present, much affected: with many, I trust, the impression will continue.'

Sources

  • John Wesley, Journaland Letters

Entry written by: DALC
Category: Place

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