Saturday, 5 March 2016


 As Witnessed by Farmer Clay through a Hole in the Hedge.


John Wesley had a ploughboy's taste,
And left his wife so staid
To hug with joy the slender waist
Of Farmer Clay's milkmaid.

 John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was born in the year 1703, and died in 1791, leaving behind him an exceedingly pious reputation— in Wesleyan circles. John, during his lifetime, posed as a pale-eyed paragon of piety. But, unfortunately for John, there was, at least one man, an old-time 'John Norton,' who had the temerity to tear aside the cloak of hypocrisy behind which this Wesleyan wowser endeavored to hide his squalid sins. That man was William Benbow, of 9 Castle-street, Leicester Square, London, printer and publisher of the "Ramblers' Magazine," an exceedingly popular and praiseworthy monthly, which was very widely read in the latter part of the 18th century and the early part of the 19th century. This fearless journalist, Benbow, although persistently persecuted by a pack of impious, notoriety-soaking parasites, who formed a body which they called
 kept on in the even tenor of his way, and did more to improve the morals of the ancient 'aristocracy' than any man of his time. He eventually succeeded in sheeting home filthy crimes to two or three hypocrites who were the prime movers in the crusade against himself and his paper. Furthermore, he proved that it was only fear of their own misdeeds being exposed that led them to clamor for his journalistic blood. Now, to revert to that prince of ancient bounders, John Wesley, who, like his modern prototype, Booth, founded a religion out of which he made a "darned good thing." Wesley was described by one writer in the "Magazine" under notice, as "an unctuous, oily, smooth tongued person, who, while seemingly incapable of doing wrong, had a treacherous, cat-like nature, snaky eyes, a surly, avaricious face, and was in no wise like a true preacher of the Gospel." We are also told that "John Wesley hunted his good wife from him, but by artful trickery had led others to believe that she was a shrew, and that she left him after ill-treating him much." John was evidently
 as he did not fail to write letters, which he knew would eventually be published, and which would hold him up to the world as a shining example of a patient pietist squirming under the tyrannical heel of a savage, sixteen-stone wife. Extracts from these letters have been published, and only recently in the London "Standard," from which the following is taken:—
"Never, perhaps, was there a more long-suffering man than John Wesley, or a more intolerable shrew than his wife. Not content with torturing by daily exhibitions of
 dogging his footsteps like a detective, listening at key-holes, ransacking his drawers, and opening his letters, she was subject to uncontrollable fits of passion, in which she would violently assault her husband, and drag him along the floor by his hair. And all the retaliation this despotism evoked was a mild expostulation, as when in a letter to her he wrote, 'I dislike not having the command of my own house, not being at liberty to invite my nearest relatives to so much as drink a dish of tea without disobeying you. Attempt no more to abridge me of my liberty ; then shall I govern you with gentle sway, even as Christ the Church.' Even when, after exhausting all her efforts to drive her husband to distraction,
 the only record of this crowning wrong is this entry of his diary : 'I have not left her ; I have not sent her away ; I will not call her back.' It is little wonder, however, that after such a matrimonial experience Wesley should have advised young men 'to remain single for the kingdom of Heaven's sake.' "
 This story of the alleged wrongs of the holy John is a nice one indeed. No doubt it will be eagerly gulped down by dear little watery-eyed, weak-chested Wesleyan Sunday school scholars, who make a business of swallowing anything, from tough, stale buns to tough, twaddle-some tales about the terrible things that happen to tough-jawed colonists who go fishing or play 'two-up' on Sundays, instead of sitting in church looking
 while the hairy Devil denouncer breathes out psalms and hymns. But this hard-faced organ does not believe that John's wife was as savage as she is depicted. Possibly she did keep a sharp eye on John, and ransack John's drawers, and open John's letters, and listen at key-holes whenever a plump female called to interview John, but she had good reason to do so. John was a bad, bold man, who kept his weather eye perpetually skinned for flighty females who were hunting round for a lover, and Mrs. Wesley evidently knew this, hence her jealousy. She loved John with all her might, but John regarded her as a tough specimen of the gentler sex, and sought the company of
 At first his illicit love-making was carried on in secret ; but as time went on he became bolder, and made no secret of his admiration for younger women. It was then that his good wife protested violently, and subsequently left him in disgust. The stories of his pranks with the parish females are numerous, so says Benbow. But one of his giddiest escapades was thus referred to in the "Ramblers' Magazine." just after John's departure for the halo department:— 'The reverend gentleman has left behind him a name famous for sanctity, and which, in the opinion of many devout spinsters and bachelors, constitutes him an idol of chastity and self-mortification. But, alas! they are deceived. John Wesley, with all his pretended godliness, is a fit subject for the annals of gallantry in this magazine. The famous Origen, to escape temptation, cut off the necessaries required to accomplish carnal guilt, but he bitterly repented of it afterwards when he found  the desire still remained without the means of gratification. Methodist John only separated himself from his wife as
that might tempt him to bring his good bullion to a failing market. He separated his body from carnal pleasure that his delight might be in the law of the Lord; yea, he left the wife of his bosom to cleave unto his God, but he wist not what manner of man he was. It is true he was formed in God's own image, but his spirit was that of the First Tempter, and he entered the wire-woven gulf of yawning sensuality and rioted therein as if he was working a sinner's salvation by beginning at the bottom of evil. But to our story. We will 'a round, unvarnished tale deliver' of John Wesley's 'hairbreadth escapes in the imminent deadly breach,' and, as our readers will perceive, some 'moving accidents by flood and field.' Ah! verily, the field of the Lord was not the only one that John labored in
 and kneeling humility. John lived for some time in the family of Mr. Clay, a respectable farmer near Lincoln, in whose fields he went, like holy Jacob, to meditate at eventide, and as Jacob was meditating in the fields when he first saw Rachael, whom 'he raised up and kissed,' so was John Wesley meditating in the fields when he first saw the farmer's pretty milkmaid. He was, as usual, pondering on a huge Bible, in which the Lord says he will judge fornicators and adulterers. And, lest John should not carry work to Heaven for the Lord to do, he cast his eyes upon the milkmaid, and with God's Word in his hand he committed fornication in his heart with her. As her snowy fingers stroked the red paps of the milk-white cow they reminded him of the pillars of Solomon's Temple, blushing with holiness. And, as the milk streamed from the gentle pressure of her hand he thought of the holy oil which
 down to the hem of his garment. John advanced towards her from under the hedge, probably singing those moving words of the psalm:—

'Then open wide the temple gates
 To which the just repair ;
 That I might enter in and praise
 My great Deliverer there.'

 The prevailing eloquence of John Wesley in the pulpit was also prevailing in the field. The lovely milkmaid was overpowered by the weight of his reasoning, and there in adoring extasy he knelt at her feet, more emphatically to enforce his doctrine, and that his spirit might enter fully into her soul. The place of worship laid low, and John made good use of God's word by employing his Bible to raise the sinner to a proper standard for receiving his pious exhortations, which, to say the truth, were bottomed on Scripture, and he encouraged her not to be afraid with any amazement. The farmer, who had, from a hole in the hedge witnessed the planting of
 felt afraid that it might bring forth the  fruits of good living, and wisely expelled John from his dwelling, and with him the fair object of his adoration. From the very Bible which had been the supporter of sin, did John Wesley read Godly lessons to his hearers ; and in the parlor of the Sir John Falstaff public-house at Lincoln, when he was weary and heavy-laden with wine, did he make it a pillow whereon to lie his head and rest. ' Oh ye of little faith !' Ye stiff-necked and perverse generation, who never have relaxed 
 like your master, John, beneath the sheltering hedge of a luxurious field, read this, and reflect how weak is man when opposed to woman — how strong the spirit and how very yielding the flesh. Pause and ponder, for who knows what his own case may be ?"
The writer concludes the story of John's "conquest" with the remark : "The landlady of the Sir John Falstaff public-house and Farmer Clay will at any time swear to the truth of these statements." Thus is the idol of Methodism shattered ! John Wesley, the Patron Saint of the most rabid Sabbath-snuffling sect of the present day, was, after all, an ordinary human, with the wery wulgar tastes of wild-eyed Willie, of Woolloomooloo. "The sins of the father," it is said, "will be visited on his progeny, even unto the fourth generation." Have the sins of the founder of Wesleyanism been inherited by his flock "even unto the present generation ?" It looks like it, at any rate, as many of the
  are extremely weak in precisely the same  spot as he was. Like John, they have  a particular penchant for tender ewe lambs. Like John, many of them are canting, carping hypocrites. Like John, many of them hound the missus out of house and home, and then preach piously about the persecution to which they submitted ere "firing" her. Like John, they object to the missus squinting  through the keyhole when a plump young lady is interviewing them privately ; and like John, they use the good old Word for many purposes for which it was never intended to be used. Verily, Wesleyan Methodism got a bad advertisement when Benbow tackled its founder, and those who kept
 have almost clogged the wheels with malodorous mud that makes the aforesaid chariot give forth an odor like unto the midnight sanitary man's vehicle. To drag the character of a noble dead woman through the mire in order to exalt, glorify, and make appear a martyr a nasty old reprobate like John Wesley was, is a sin too awful to contemplate,  and one that will, sooner or later, rebound, hit Wesleyanism in the wind-bag, and burst its pious "pantry."

Truth 10 May 1903

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