Thursday, January 13, 2011

JW Confronts Demons

Thu 13 Jan 1743. I rode to Stratford-upon-Avon. I had scarce sat down before I was informed that Mrs. K----, a middle-aged woman of Shottery, half a mile from Stratford, had been for many weeks last past in a way which nobody could understand; that she had sent for a minister, but almost as soon as he came began roaring in so strange a manner (her tongue at the same time hanging out of her mouth, and her face distorted into a most terrible form) that he cried out, ‘It is the devil, doubtless! It is the devil!’ And immediately went away.
I suppose this was some unphilosophical minister. Else he would have said, ‘Stark mad! Send her to Bedlam.’
I asked, ‘What good do you think I can do?’ One answered, ‘We cannot tell. But Mrs. K. (I just relate what was spoken to me, without passing any judgment upon it) earnestly desired you might come, if you was anywhere near, saying she had seen you in a dream and should know you immediately. “But the devil said” (those were her own expressions), “I will tear thy throat out before he comes.” But “afterwards” (she said) “his words were, ‘If he does come, I will let thee be quiet, and thou shalt be as if nothing ailed thee, till he is gone away.’”’
A very odd kind of madness this! I walked over about noon; but when we came to the house desired all those who came with me to stay below. One showing me the way, I went up straight to her room. As soon as I came to the bedside she fixed her eyes and said, ‘You are Mr. Wesley. I am very well now, I thank God. Nothing ails me; only I am weak.’ I called them up, and we began to sing,
Jesu, thou hast bid us pray,
Pray always and not faint;
With the Word, a power convey
To utter our complaint. . . .
After singing a verse or two we kneeled down to prayer. I had but just begun (my eyes being shut) when I felt as if I had been plunged into cold water. And immediately there was such a roar that my voice was quite drowned, though I spoke as loud as I usually do to three or four thousand people. However, I prayed on. She was then reared up in the bed, her whole body moving at once, without bending one joint or limb, just as if it were one piece of stone. Immediately after it was writhed into all kind of postures, the same horrid yell continuing still. But we left her not till all the symptoms ceased, and she was (for the present, at least) rejoicing and praising God.
Between one and two I preached at Stratford, on, ‘The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins.’ Most of the hearers stood like posts. But some mocked. Others blasphemed. And a few believed.
I preached at Evesham in the evening, rode to Painswick the next day, and on Saturday 15 to Bristol; where the following week I spoke to each member of the society and rejoiced over them, finding they had not been ‘barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’.

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