Diary of John Wesley's visit

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So many of his followers wanted to hear him that Wesley frequently had to preach outside

On 13 August 1787, John Wesley set out to visit the Channel Islands. He landed first in Alderney, and then moved on to Guernsey. He arrived in Jersey on 20 August 1787, and spent the next ten days preaching in various places in the Island.

This is his diary of the visit to Jersey.

Monday 20 August 1787

We embarked between three and four in the morning in a very small, inconvenient sloop, and not a swift sailer; so that we were seven hours in sailing what is called seven leagues. About eleven we landed at St Heliers, and went straight to Mr Brackenbury's house. It stands very pleasantly, near the end of the town, and has a large, convenient garden, with a lovely range of fruitful hills, which rise at a small distance from it.

I preached in the evening to an exceeding serious congregation, on Mark iii, and almost as many were present at five in the morning; whom I exhorted to go on to perfection; which many of them, Mr Clarke informs me, are earnestly endeavouring to do.

Tuesday 21 August 1787

We took a walk to one of our friends in the country. Near his house stood what they call the College. It is a free-school, designed to train up children for the University, exceeding finely situated, in a quiet recess, surrounded by tall woods.

Not far from it stands, on the top of a high hill (I suppose a Roman mount), an old chapel, believed to be the first Christian church which was built in the island. From hence we had a view of the whole island, the pleasantest I ever saw - as far superior to the Isle of Wight as that is to the Isle of Man. The little hills, almost covered with large trees, are inexpressibly beautiful. It seems they are to be equalled in the Isle of Guernsey.

In the evening I was obliged to preach abroad [ie out of doors], on 'Now is the day of salvation'. I think a blessing seldom fails to attend that subject.

Wednesday 22 August 1787

In the evening, the room not containing the people, I was obliged to stand in the yard. I preached on Romans iii.22-23, and spoke exceeding plain. Even the gentry heard with deep attention. How little things does God turn to His own glory! Probably many of these flock together because I have lived so many years. And perhaps even this may be the means of their living for ever.

Thursday 23 August 1787

I rode to St Mary's, five or six miles from St Heliers, through shady, pleasant lanes. None at the house could speak English, but I had interpreters enough. In the evening our large room was thoroughly filled: I preached on 'By grace are saved, through faith'. Mr Brackenbury interpreted sentence by sentence; and God owned His word, though delivered in so awkward a manner; but especially in prayer: I prayed in English, and Mr Brackenbury in French.

The houses here are exactly like those in the interior parts of Wales, equal to the best farmers' houses in Lincolnshire; and the people are far better behaved than our country farmers in England.

Friday 24 August 1787

I returned to St Heliers. The high wind in the evening prevented my preaching abroad. However, on more that the house would contain, I enforced those awful words, 'It is appointed unto men once to die'. I believe the word fell heavy on all that heard, and many wished to die the death of the righteous.

Saturday 25 August 1787

Having now leisure, I finished a sermon on 'Discerning the Signs of the Times'.

This morning I had a particular conversation (as I had once or twice before) with Jeannie Bisson of this town; such a young woman as I have hardly seen elsewhere. She seems to be wholly devoted to God, and to have constant communion with him. She has a clear and strong understanding; and I cannot perceive the least tincture of enthusiasm, I am afraid whe will not live long. I am amazed at the grace of God which is in her: I think she is far beyond Madame Guyon in deep communion with God; and I doubt whether I have found her fellow in England. Precious as my time is, it would have been worth my while to come to Jersey, had it been only to see this prodigy of grace.

In the evening God was with us in a very uncommon manner while I opened and enforced those comprehensive words, 'We preach Christ crucified'. I know not when we have had such an opportunity; it seemed as if every soul present would have found the salvation of God.

Sunday 26th August 1787

Dr Coke preached at five, and I at nine o'clock. Afterwards I heard the English service at church but the congregation was nothing near so large as ours at five in the morning.

We had a French sermon in our room at three. Afterwards I met the society, many of whom came from the country, and had no English; so Mr Brackenbury interpreted for me again. Afterwards we both prayed. Many of the people seemed greatly affected.

Between five and six I began preaching in the yard, but before I had finished my sermon it poured down with rain; so I was obliged to conclude abruptly."

Monday 27 August 1787

Captain Cabot, the master of a Guernsey sloop, called upon us early in the morning, and told us, if we chose to go that way, he would set out between five and six; but, the wind being quite contrary, we judged it best to wait a little longer.

In the evening, being appointed to preach at seven, I was obliged to preach within. We were extremely crowded; but the power of God was so manifested while I declared, 'We preach Jesus Christ, and Him crucified', that we soon forgot the heat, and were glad of being detained a little longer than we intended.

I thought, when I left Southampton, to have been there again as of this day, but God's thoughts were not as my thoughts. Here we are shut up in Jersey, for how long we cannot tell. But it is all well, for Thou, Lord, hast done it. It is my part to improve the time, as it is not likely I shall ever have another opportunity of visiting these islands."

Tuesday 28 August 1787

Being still detained by contrary winds, I preached at six in the evening, to a larger congregation than ever, in the assembly-room. It conveniently contains five or six hundred people. Most of the gentry were present, and, I believe, felt that God was thhere in an uncommon degree.

Being still detained, I preached there again the next evening to a larger congregation than ever. I now judged I had fully delivered my own soul; and in the morning, the wind serving for Guernsey, and not for Southampton, I returned thither to that room, not unwillingly, since it was not by my choice, but by the clear providence of God; for in the afternoon I was offered the use of an assembly-room, a spacious chamber in the market-place, which would contain at least thrice as many as our former room. I willingly accepted the offer, and preached at six to such a congregation as I had not seen here before; and the word seemed to sink deep into their hearts. I trust it will not return empty.

Wednesday 29 August 1787

I designed to have followed the blow in the morning; but I had quite lost my voice. However, it was restored in the evening; and I believe all in the assembly-room (more than the last evening) heard distinctly while I explained and applied 'I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God'".

Thursday 30 August 1787

In the morning I took solemn leave of the society. We set out about nine, and reached St Peter's in the afternoon. Good is the will of the Lord. I trust He has something more for us to do here also.

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