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METHODISM IN FORMER DAYS.
No. XXII.-OSMOTHERLY. (To the Editor of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine.) The traveller, gazing on some mighty river as it urges its majestic flow, is scarcely able to repress the instinctive wish to ascertain its source, to trace its various windings, to mark its tributary streams. A similar desire actuates the Christian, when visiting any spot where from generation to generation the river of the “ water of life” has flowed. To him, it proves a source of highest interest to note the honoured men, through whose immediate agency He, with whom is the “ fountain of life,” conveyed the life-giving stream ; he loves to trace its varied progress ; he rejoices in the fertility and verdure attendant on its course. Marking thus the onward career of the ever-blessed Gospel, and recognising in its success the hand of Him who “ causeth” his servants “ to triumph,” and “ maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge in every place,” we seem to tread on holy ground. In the contemplation of the past, with its scenes of patient toil and triumph ; in the anticipated glories of “another country," where “ the Christian's journey ends," the mind is sweetly drawn aside from earth, and with feelings of intense desire do we look forward to the purity and blessedness of that better land.
The design of the present paper is to place before the attention of your readers a spot, little, indeed, among the sections of our Israel, yet somewhat conspicuous in the history of Methodism ; and where, in the establishment and spread of evangelical truth, much may be noted in illustration of the especial grace and providence of God.
The village of Osmotherly is situate in the North Riding of the county of York. The surrounding locality was anciently known by the name of “ Tibby Dale," and has ever been famed for its romantic and beautiful scenery, such as gives the wished-for inspiration to the poet's pen, whilst creating in humbler minds a feeling of rustic delight more easily comprehended than defined
Few places in our sea-girt isle can claim a higher antiquity than that of which this village boasts : strong presumptive evidence is, indeed, furnished of its having existed from the time of the Saxon Heptarchy ; for at least a thousand years, successive generations have peopled this romantic spot. The following tradition, as to the origin of its name, whether its correctness be fully substantiated or no, wears, at least, the impress of probability. During the Saxon Heptarchy, when the collection of mudbuilt cottages, then forming the village, was termed Tibby, or Tivoy, Dale, a wife of one of the Northumbrian Kings dreamed, that on a certain day she and her son Oz would certainly be drowned. Naturally wishful to avert such a catastrophe, she, at the time specified, went, in company with her son, to the top of Roseberry, a pyramidal hill, near Stokesley, the highest, it is asserted, in the county of York. The sun shone bright, and Oz with his mother, overcome by fatigue and heat, fell asleep. Whilst thus reposing, a spring gushed out on the very spot where they lay, and the dream of the mother was fatally realized. The bodies of the unfortunate pair were subsequently discovered, and brought for interment to Tibby Dale, distant twelve miles. From this circumstance, it is said, the Dale was designated Osmotherly, a contraction of the words, Oz-and-his-mother's-lay,
or field. The heads of Oz and his mother, carved in stone, are still exhibited in the wall of the parish church.
Osmotherly, as to its Methodistic reminiscences, must also be regarded as an ancient spot, having, at an early period of his career, been honoured with frequent visits from the venerated Wesley. Within seven years of the time that he himself had realized the blessedness of those to whom “ faith is imputed for righteousness,” Mr. Wesley, at the united request of a Quakeress and a Romish Priest, is found at Osmotherly, proclaiming to an attentive congregation, most of whom were Papists, “ the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.”
There resided at this period in Osmotherly a Roman Catholic Priest, by name John Adams, or Watson; he being known by both designations. Having violated the law of his Church, which in the true spirit of antichrist forbids her Priests to marry, Adams was placed under ecclesiastical censure, and deprived of his salary as Priest ; retaining, however, the house in which he had resided, together with a small landed property contiguous thereto : these he kept possession of till the period of his death ; but, such was the jeopardy in which he lived, that for several years he was, in fact, a prisoner in his own house ; his doors being, from necessity, bolted day and night. Having heard, notwithstanding his seclusion, singular accounts of the new sect that had recently sprung up, and being informed that Mr. Wesley was then at Newcastle, he resolved, despite the long and toilsome journey, railways being unthought of, and coaches in that neighbourhood nearly as great a rarity, to travel thither, and hear for himself, whether the things which he had heard were so or not. His interview with Mr. Wesley is thus referred to by the latter in his Journal : _“ Thursday, March 28th, 1745. A gentleman called at our house, who informed me his name was Adams ; that he lived about forty miles from Newcastle, at Osmotherly, in Yorkshire ; and had heard so many strange accounts of the Methodists, that he could not rest till he came to inquire for himself. I told him he was welcome to stay as long as he pleased, if he could live on our lenten fare. He made no difficulty of this, and willingly stayed till the Monday se'nnight following, when he returned home, fully satisfied with his journey.” On Monday, April 15th, a week after Adams had returned home, Mr. Wesley started on his journey southward. He had met the Newcastle society at half-past four in the morning, preached at Chester-le-Street at eight, passed through Darlington onward to Northallerton, where he preached in the evening at the inn. Here Mr. Adams and several of his friends waited upon Mr. Wesley, to invite him to Osmotherly ; when, notwithstanding the fatigues of the day, this man of God, ever “ about his Father's business,” “instant in season, and out of season,” cheerfully complies with their request, and, almost at the midnight hour, stands forth as the herald of salvation, enforcing the truth by which we live. “In the evening,” records he, “I preached at the inn, in Northallerton, where Mr. Adams, and some of his neighbours, met me. On his saying he wished I could have time to preach in his house at Osmotherly, I told him I would have time, if he desired it; and ordered our horses to be brought out immediately. We came thither between nine and ten. It was about an hour before the people were gathered together.* It was
* In a letter to his brother Charles, bearing date, Leeds, April 23d, 1745, Mr. Wesley states, that he preached “in a large chapel, which belonged, a few years since, to a convent of Franciscan Friars.”
after twelve before I lay down; yet, through the blessing of God, I felt no weariness at all. Tuesday, April 16th. I preached at five, on Rom. iii. 22, to a large congregation, part of whom had sat up all night, for fear they should not wake in the morning. Many of them, I found, either were, or had been, Papists. 0, how wise are the ways of God! How am I brought, without any care or thought of mine, into the centre of the Papists in Yorkshire! O that God would arise and maintain his own cause, and all the idols let hiin utterly abolish! After sermon an elderly woman asked me abruptly, ‘Dost thou think water-baptism an ordinance of Christ ?' I said, What saith Peter ? “Who can forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost, even as we?". I spoke but little more, before she cried out, “It is right! It is right! I will be baptized. And so she was, the same hour.” This good woman, Elizabeth Tyerman by name, was the Quakeress at whose request, in conjunction with Mr. Adams, Mr. Wesley had proceeded from Northallerton to her own village. The rite was performed at the house of her son-in-law, Michael Snowden, who shortly after was appointed a Leader in the little society at Osmotherly. In keeping with the providential manner in which the steps of Mr. Wesley had been directed to this locality, he found a people “prepared of the Lord ;” many of whom could truly say, “ Thy words were found, and I did eat them ; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”
Two other visits were paid by Mr. Wesley to Osmotherly in the year , 1745 ; one in the month of September, and the other a few weeks afterwards. On the former occasion he observes, “I saw the poor remains of the old chapel on the brow of the hill, as well as those of the Carthusian monastery, called Mount Grace, which lay at the foot of it. The walls of the church, of the cloister, and some of the cells, are tolerably entire ; and one may still discern the partitions between the little gardens, one of which belonged to every cell. Who knows but some of the poor, superstitious Monks who once served God here according to the light they had, may meet us, by and by, in that house of God 'not made with hands, eternal in the heavens?”"
Mr. Wesley's fourth visit to Osmotherly occurred in the year 1747. On Saturday, February 28th, he reached Thirsk, from whence, having preached in a vacant house, at five P.m., and again the morning following at six, he proceeded to Osmotherly ; and arrived just as the Minister, who lived some miles off, came into town. “I sent my service to him,” says Mr. Wesley, “and told him, if he pleased, I would assist him either by reading Prayers or preaching. On receiving the message, he came to me immediately, and said he would willingly accept of my assistance. As we walked to church, he said, “ Perhaps it would fatigue you too much to read Prayers and preach too. I told him, No; I would choose it, if he pleased ; which I did accordingly. After service was ended, Mr. D. said, “Sir, I am sorry I have not a house here to entertain you. Pray let me know whenever you come this way. Several asking where I would preach in the afternoon, one went to Mr. D. again, and asked if he was willing I should preach in the church. He said, Yes ; whenever Mr. Wesley pleases.' We had a large congregation at three o'clock. Those who in time past had been the most bitter gainsayers, seemed now to be melted into love. All were convinced we are no Papists. How wisely does God order all things in their season !” The name of the Clergyman who treated Mr. Wesley with such marked respect was Dyson, then resident at Carlton, in Cleve
land. The day following, Mr. Wesley arrived in Newcastle, and, on his return from that neighbourhood, preached again at Osmotherly. “Finding," says he,“ that Mr. D., as I expected, had been vehemently attacked by the neighbouring Clergy and gentry, that he might be exposed to no further difficulty on my account, I did not claim his promise, but preached on a tombstone near the church, on, "The Lord is risen indeed. How wisely does God order all things! Some will not hear even the word of God out of a church : for the sake of these we are often permitted to preach in à church. Others will not hear it in a church: for their sakes we are often compelled to preach in the highways.” Here Mr. Wesley was met by John Nelson, who, with the spirit of a martyr, had narrowly escaped death at Acomb, near York; fiends in human shape, after having repeatedly knocked him down, dragging him by the hair of the head; some kicking him on his thighs and sides as they tore him along, and others trampling on his body, to tread, as they said, the Holy Spirit out of him ! The word preached on the tombstone at Osmotherly was to this persecuted man a word in season. It came, says he,“ with power to my soul, and constrained me to cry out, O Lord, I will praise thee for thy goodness to me; for thou hast been with me in all my trials; thou hast brought me out of the jaws of death; and though thou didst permit men to ride over my head, and didst lay affliction on my loins, yet thou hast brought me through fire and water into a wealthy place.'” Who can but admire the spirit of religious heroism, and of true submission to the will of God, thus strikingly displayed ?
It is perhaps impossible to determine the exact period when the first Methodist society in Osmotherly was formed ; yet, from the evidence of an old society's book, it is certain that so early as the year 1750, there were two, if not three, classes in existence there ; so that, if not during Mr. Wesley's first visit, yet very shortly after, its organization must have taken place. The following extract from the above-named record presents this little flock as by no means inattentive to the financial discipline of the Connexion. The statement gives the receipts of the first three months of the year 1751. “Small and feeble,” it is true, “was the day,” yet right in its beginning :
The disbursements embrace the expenses incurred in the entertainment of the Preachers who visited the locality, and in meeting some of their occasional necessities. Entries of this kind, for instance, are constantly met with :-“ Nov. 29th, 1750. Laid out for Mr. Thomas Mitchell, 1s. 2d. :" “ 1751. Jan. 18th. Laid out for John Nelson, and his horse shoeing, 1s. 4d. :” “1752. April 28th. Laid out for Mr. John Wesley, wife, daughters, William Shent, and John Haime, 5s. 2d. : ” “ July 19th. For William Grimshaw and William Darney, 1s. 3d.” The largest sum which, during this period, the Steward had in hand, was seventeen shillings; whilst, in July, 1757, the record is found, “In debt, 4s. 10d.”
· In 1752, Mr. Wesley, visiting Osmotherly, records a singular incident. “I was desired,” says he, “to visit a person who had been an eminent scoffer at all religion; but was now, they said, in a strange way.' I found her in a strange way indeed ; either raving mad, or possessed of the devil. The woman herself affirmed, that the devil had appeared to her the day before ; and, after talking some time, leaped upon and grievously tormented her ever since. We prayed with her. Her agonies ceased. She fell asleep, and awaked in the morning calm and easy.” Of cases such as this, differing opinions may indeed be formed; yet, in the answer thus vouchsafed to earnest prayer, every devout mind will gratefully recognise the mercy and the power of God.
About the year 175+ attempts were made to erect a small Wesleyan 6 preaching-house" in the village. Serious difficulties were, however, presented. From want of funds, the society were for some time exposed to the taunt, “ These men began to build, and are not able to finish.” Jealous for the honour of religion, James Hunton, Hannah Snowden, and another, resolutely determined to have the work completed. Personally they did what they could; and prevailed on others to assist them. Some brought stones; others mixed mortar; some handled the trowel ; till, by dint of united, persevering effort, the little sanctuary was raised. It continued open to the roof, and floored with mud, until the year 1805 or 1806, when the roof was ceiled, a boarded floor laid down, and the comfort of the worshippers greatly promoted. In 1824, the chapel was enlarged to its present size, and opened by the Rev. John Sedgwick. Mr. Wesley's next visit to Osmotherly took place in June, 1755, a short time after the singular phænomenon had been witnessed near Black-Hamilton, a ridge of mountains in the immediate neighbourhood, where, in the midst of loud, unearthly noises, and successive earthquakes, large piles of rock were riven from their native bed, and thrown into the valley below; whilst, in other parts of that locality, large stones or rocks of some tons' weight each, rose out of the ground. Others were thrown on one side, others turned upside down, and many rolled over and over. Mr. Wesley, having preached at Osmotherly, where God “renewed his strength and comforted his heart,” proceeds attentively to view the desolation thus produced ; and, on inquiry as to the cause, answers, “ What indeed, but God, who arose to shake terribly the earth ; who purposely chose such a place, where there is so great a concourse of nobility and gentry every year; and wrought in such a manner, that many might see it and fear; that all who travel one of the most frequented roads in England might see it, almost whether they would or no, for many miles together? It must likewise for many years, maugre all the art of man, be a visible monument of His power; all that ground being now so encumbered with rocks and stones, that it cannot be either ploughed or grazed. Nor will it serve any use, but to tell all that see it, Who can stand before this great God ?”
Mr. Wesley's last visit to Osmotherly took place in the year 1784, and is thus noticed in his Journal :-“ Tuesday, June 15th. I preached once more to my old friends at Osmotherly.” Several other visits are, during the interim, placed on record ; in two of which, he refers to his faithful friend Mr. Adams, though under the name Watson, in terms which indicate that the friendship subsisting between them was not only lasting, but intimate. “ Wednesday, June 19th, 1776, I preached to my old loving congregation at Osmotherly, and visited once more poor Mr. Watson, just quivering over the grave.” “ Thursday, May 8th, 1777. About eleven I preached at