The Sermons of Charles Wesley: A Critical Edition, with Introduction and Notes

By Charles Wesley; Kenneth G. C. Newport | Go to book overview
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Sermon 2 1 Kings 18: 21

Introductory Comment

Two MSS of Charles's sermon on 1 Kings 18: 21 have survived. Both are held at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 1 and both are written in longhand. The first MS comprises 14 leaves (including covers). The leaves of this MS, here referred to as 'MS A' are written both verso and recto. The second MS, which is shorter and later, comprises 20 leaves (including covers), written almost exclusively recto only. The exception is the front cover, on the verso of which is the sermon register. This second MS is here cited as 'MS B'.

The sermon was originally published in the 1816 edition (pp. 207-24) and for that edition the editor has utilized the shorter, later MS, to which numerous editorial changes have been made by the editor him-or herself. The fuller, longer sermon (MS A) has not before been published and it is from that MS that the sermon printed below has been transcribed. All differences between the two MSS are indicated in the notes.

Charles first preached this sermon in Cowes on the Isle of Wight in 1735 during the very early stages of his crossing to America, where he was to take up the post of secretary to General Oglethorpe. He had set out on this journey from Gravesend together with his brother John on 21 October 1735, but had been delayed off the Isle of Wight due to unfavourable sailing conditions, and the journey did not restart until 10 December. 2 According to the information found on the recto of leaf 1 of MS A Charles preached from 1 Kings 18: 21 (using MS A) on 30 November. It is regrettable that Charles's journal does not begin until after that date, so no cross-reference from that source is available. However, in his entry for 20 November 1735, John Wesley records that

The continuance of the contrary winds gave my brother an opportunity of complying with the desire of the minister of Cowes, and preaching there three or four times. The poor people flocked together in great numbers. 3

It is evident, then, that not all of Charles's preaching on the Isle of Wight has survived. Indeed, this MS on 1 Kings 18: 21 is the only one still extant. This MS sermon hence gives a valuable glimpse of Charles's preaching in its infancy (Charles was ordained priest on 29 September 1735, only a little over two weeks before setting out for Georgia). 4

It is apparent from the very slender evidence that has survived that Charles's preaching at Cowes, including, presumably, this sermon, was a success. John's reference to the 'flocking' of the people has been noted already. Further, John wrote to his elder brother Samuel on 1 February 1736 and included a report on Charles's preaching, though unfortunately

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