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JOHN NELSON'S DUNGEON.
(With an Engraving.) One of Mr. Wesley's early lay-coadjutors was John Nelson, a native of Birstal in Yorkshire, and brought up to the occupation of a stonemason. Providentially led to the metropolis, he heard Mr. Wesley preach in Moorfields. The word of truth powerfully affected him, so that he was led, with deep penitence, and earnest supplication, to seek the “pearl of great price," which he shortly found through faith in the atonement of Christ. Realizing the blessings of the Gospel, John Nelson began to exhort his ungodly neighbours to flee from the wrath to come; and by reproving them of sin, and defending the doctrines which he taught, he was led to quote, expound, aud enforce passages of Scripture much to the edification of those who heard. He then wrote to Mr. Wesley to inform him of what he was doing, and to seek his advice. This advice was promptly communicated: John Nelson went forward in the name of the Lord, so that when Mr. Wesley paid his first visit to Birstal, he found a Preacher and a congregation raised up without his interference.
Nelson soon became the victim of a most capricious and unrelenting persecution. During the period of the threatened invasion of the country in 1743 by Charles, son of the old Pretender, Commissioners were appointed, with authority to impress as soldiers all who were brought before them, whose
Vol. VII. Second Series.
lives were disorderly, or who had no apparent means of obtaining an honest livelihood. One of these Commissioners for the West Riding was the Rev. Mr. Coleby, Vicar of Birstal, who eagerly embraced the opportunity thus presented, to rid himself and the parish of his preaching parishioner; consequently, at the instigation of the Clergyman, who appears to have been Nelson's bitterest enemy, he was apprehended when preaching at Adwalton, May 4th, 1744, and on the following day he was taken before the Commissioners at Halifax.*
An account of this interview, and of its immediate results, has been graphically given by Nelson himself:—“They smiled at one another, as soon as they saw me. They bade the door-keeper not to let any man come in; but Mr. Thomas Brooks had got in with me; and they said, “That is one of his converts.' They then called Joseph Gibson,” (the constable who apprehended him,) " and asked, 'How many men have you brought?' He said, 'One.' "Well, and what have you against him?'
Why, gentlemen,' said he, 'I have nothing to say against him, but he preaches to the people ; and some of our townsmen don't like so much preaching.' They broke out in laughter ; and one of them said, I was fit to go for a soldier, for then I might have preaching enough. I said to him, 'Sir, you ought not to swear! Well,' said they to me, 'you have no licence to preach, and you shall go for a soldier.' I answered, “Sir, I have surely as much right to preach, as you have to swear.' He said to the Captain, • Captain, is he fit for you?' 'Yes,' he answered. “Then, take him away.'”+
It appears, indisputable evidence was offered that John Nelson was not the character over which those officious Commissioners had jurisdiction : this evidence was, however, considered good for nothing, because the Vicar had given his word, which secured his committal.
“At six,” John Nelson continues, "we set out for Bradford; and many of the inhabitants prayed for me, and wept to see
* Stamp's “Historical Notices of Methodism in Bradford," p. 8. + The Journal of Mr. John Nelson, p. 113.
me in the hands of unrighteous and cruel men. But I said, * Fear not: God hath his way in the whirlwind, and he will plead my cause : only pray for me, that my faith fail not.'
“When we were about half-way between Halifax and Bradford, one of the soldiers said to me, "Sir, I am sorry for you: for the Captain is ordered by the Commissioners to put you in the dungeon ; but I will speak to him, and if he will let me have the care of you, you shall lie with me, for the dungeon is as loathsome a place as ever I saw. I thanked him for his offer : but when we got to Bradford, we were drawn up in the street where the cross stood, and the Captain went and fetched the people of the dungeon, and said, Take this man, and put him in the dungeon; and take this other along with you,'- -a poor, harmless man, all the clothes on whose back were not worth one shilling; neither did they lay any thing to his charge, when he was ordered for a soldier. But when we came to the dungeon-door, the soldier who spoke to me by the way, went to the Captain, and said, 'Sir, if you will give me charge over Mr. Nelson, my life for his, he shall be forthcoming in the morning.' But the Captain threatened to break his head, if he spoke about me any more.
“The Captain came to us before I went down; and I asked him, “Sir, what have I done that I must go to the dungeon? If you are afraid of me that I should run away, set a guard over me in a room, and I will pay them.' He answered, “My order is to put you in the dungeon.' So I see my Lord's word is fulfilled, "The servant is not above his master:' for those who were accused of thieving, and great evils which they had done in the neighbourhood, must eat, and drink, and lie on feather-beds; but I only desired a little water, and it was refused me by the Captain, although I had had nothing all the day, except a little tea in the morning. But my Master never sends his servants a warfare at their own charge: he gives strength according to their day. For when I came into the dungeon, that stunk worse than a hogstye, by reason of the blood and filth which sink from the butchers who kill over it, my soul was so filled with the love of God, that it was a paradise to me.
“The same night, a man that lives in Bradford came to