General Collection of MSS.
Document No. 113.
1819. LETTER FROM A PIONEER WESLEYAN MINISTER STATIONED AT RAMSEY.
28 April, 1819.
My dear Brother,
1 have not one word to say in my own defence, so that unless you are disposed to pardon, I must suffer the penalty which you may see good to inflict upon me. I received both your kind Letters, and can assure you that the satisfaction which I received in reading them was more than my pen can describe or my tongue declare. I hope that you will continue to be a burning and shining Light in the Church of Christ when I am laid in the Dust. You may believe, dear Brother, that I was not aware of your situation being so uncomfortable as you describe it in your first Letter; or I would have done all in my power to have got you a better. - However, I have sometimes thought that the difficulties which you have met with are a sort of punishment inflicted upon you for leaving the Island; As I still think your providential call was to Ramsey. Well, well, we sometimes see our folly when it is too late to mend it. There is no man upon Earth I wish so much to travel with as you, and hitherto I have been disappointed.
But I have so long been enured to difficulties and disappointments that they are become quite familiar; and I always find the Grace of God quite sufficient to help me; so that I am kept upon an equal Balance.
In several respects the Methodists' Preachers have trials which none know of but God and themselves. But their trials are always mixed with Mercy. So that in some respects their situation is preferable to almost every other. For if we have a very comfortable Circuit, we know it is not our rest, and therefore we are prevented from setting our affections. upon it. If we meet with a very poor Circuit, we know our stay in it is but short, and therefore we may live in hope of a better situation.
Many things have transpired in the Island since you left us. Some agreeable and some disagreeable. Among the agrecables is, the Good Work which the Lord has begun in Peel and the neighbourhood. Within the last three months has been about 30 added at Lergydhoo, and about twice the number at Peel. And the work still goes on very rapidly.
We have no particular increase in any other part of the Circuit. We have at last begun to give Tickets to none but those who come for them except those who can not possibly attend. And we already find some good resulting from it both temporal and spiritual. If the Preachers one after another would pursue the same plan, I have no doubt but in a few years' time discipline would be restored and the work of the Lord would flourish.
Most likely you know how things are going on in Douglas Circuit as well as I can tell you. - The Horse fell with Mr. Riley some months ago, and so completely lamed him, that he has never been able to walk since, but by the help of two crutches. He is either gone or going to Whitworth Doctors, but I fear it will be labour in vain. His affliction has put us to a great deal of inconveniences, but it is worst for himself and family.
Douglas New Chapel is going on well; and it is to be opened on the first Sunday in July. We wrote to Dr. Clarke to come over and open it, but tho' we have got his answer, we have not yet got his consent. Some of the Friends in Douglas talk of going to Liverpool to try what can be done; but fear we shall not be able to prevail. - Now I hope you will write to me very soon and tell me how you are both in body and mind? How the work of the Lord prospers in your Circuit? Whether you intend to stay another year or not, or where you would wish to be? When your District Meeting will be held and where? Whether you intend to go to conference to be reecived in Form, or to wait a more convenient opportunity. And above all, tell me when You intend to come to the Island to tie a Knot with your Tongue that you cannot loose with your teeth? With every other information which you think proper to communicate. I have only seen her once since you left us, and had not an opportunity of asking. after you as it was in Mr. Wilson's Shop in Douglas. I expect to be at her house in a fortnight's time, as Mr. Hemp and I are going to change a few places; and then I expect to hear all about it. -
Thro' Merecy myself and Family are well. The Lord be with you, is the sincear prayer of your's
very affectionately JOHN MERCER.
Rev. Ralph Gibson,
The Rev John Mercer, who wrote the above letter, was one of the earliest Wesleyan Methodist travelling preachers in the Island. He came here in 1802, three years after the missionary John Crook had left.
Mercer was resident first in Castletown, and afterwards in Rarnsey. He laboured here from 1802 to 1820, when he was chairman of the district. Here is a record from his diary (1820):-' Preached at ' Ballasalla at nine a.m., and gave tickets; after'wards met the teachers at the Sunday School and appointed a superintendent; at eleven o'clock preached at Castletown; met the class at three; preached again at six, and met the society, and attended a prayer-rneeting at eight,'
The Ralph Gibson, to whom Mercer's letter was sent, was in Man contemporary with Mercer and commenced his ministry in Ramsey, He was in Castletown in 1816-17, and from there to Wigton
He returned to the Island to marry a Miss Clucas, of Port Erin, and died in 1848. According to Rosser's 'Wesleyan Methodism in the Isle of Man,' the Mr. Riley referred to was the Rev. Calverly Riley. He was attached to the Douglas Circuit; after his accident he became a supernumerary until 1824.
[FPC: Strictly John Mercer was on the Island for two separate terms - he married a young Manx widow and had children on the Island -; two other letters by John Mercer relating to the Island survive in the John Rylands Library, Manchester (a 4th is also in John Rylands Library), one is a sequel to this letter; his will is held on the Island.
The Mr Wilson is presumeably James Wilson & Co. linen and wollen drapers, Duke-st ]