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Richard Whatcoat, to the Bishops, Ministers, Preachers, and Brethren of the Methodist Episcopal Church, greeting:
WHEREAS the Lord, in great mercy, has` preserved my life these sixty-eight years, and providentially led me through various parts of Europe and America-for some time past it has been impressed on my mind, to leave a few traces of my experience and travels, as a grateful acknowledgment of the unmerited mercies and favours I have received from my gracious God, and the people among whom I have sojourned. However I may have failed in judgment or practice, this I can say with cheerfulness, I have followed with sincerity the way that appeared to me to be right; and I hope through the all-prevailing merits and mediation of Christ my Saviour, shortly to arrive where all the ship's company meet, and glory crowns what grace begun.
If this short history meets with your approbation, I wish it may be published, and a copy or the manuscript sent to the BookStewart and Committee, at the new chapel, City Road, London, as my last token of respect to my brethren, kinsfolk, and countrymen in Europe.
EXPERIENCE AND TRAVELS
REV. RICHARD WHATCOAT.
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF.
My father and mother, Charles and Mary What coat, were members of the Established Church. The Rev. Samuel Taylor, minister of the parish, was a converted man; and besides preaching regularly twice on the Lord's day, frequently held meetings in his parsonage house, and other places. I believe my mother walked in the form, and enjoyed the power of godliness, more than thirty years, and died in the triumph of faith in the year 1771. My father died when I was young, but not without hope. He left a widow, with two sons, and three daughters; the children were all brought under a wonderful work of grace about the same time of life, beginning with the eldest, and so down to the youngest.
I was born the twenty-third of February, 1736, in the parish of Quinton, Gloucestershire, England. As my father left but a small estate, to support his rising family, my mother judged it best to put the boys to trades; so that when I was thirteen years old, I was bound an apprentice to Mr. Joseph Jones, then living in Birmingham, Warwickshire. Soon after, he removed to Darlaston, in Staffordshire, where I served the greatest part of my apprenticeship. At
the age of twenty-one, when I had served my time, I removed to Wednesbury, into a family where nothing was wanting but the fear of God. Therefore, I soon moved to another house, where the fear of God rested, and where I found the Christian's God, to the unspeakable comfort of my soul.
From the earliest period I can remember, I had the fear of God, so as to keep me from the gross sins of the age; but in July, 1758, when I was about twenty-one years and five months old, I attended Methodist preaching regularly, and soon found the word was made light and power to my soul; for when the preacher was describing the fall of man, I thought he spoke as if he had known every thing that was in my heart. When he described the nature of faith, I was conscious I had it not; and though I believed all the Scriptures to be of God, yet I had not the marks of a Christian believer: and I was convinced, that if I died in the state, wherein I then was, I should be miserable for ever. Yet I could not conceive how I, that had lived so sober a life, could be the chief of sinners. But this was not long; for I no sooner discovered the spirituality of the law, and the enmity that was in my heart against God, than I could heartily agree to it. The thoughts of death and judgment now struck me with terrible fear. I had a keen apprehension of the wrath of God, and of the fiery indignation due to sinners: so that I could have wished myself to be annihilated, or to be the vilest creature, if I could but escape judgment. In this state I was, when one told me, “ I know, God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven all my past sins: and the Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the children of God." This gave me great encouragement. And I determined never to rest until I had a testimony in myself, that my sins.
also were forgiven. But in the mean time, such was the darkness I was in, such my consciousness of guilt, and the just displeasure of the Almighty God, that I could find no rest, day or night, either for body or soul so that life was a burden; and I became regardless of all things under the sun. And many discouraging thoughts were put into my mind, as, Many are called; but few chosen."-" Hath not the potter power over the clay, to make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour ?"-From which it was suggested to me, that I was made to dishonour, and so I must inevitably perish.
On the third of September, 1758, being overwhelmed with guilt and fear, as I was reading, it was, as if one whispered to me, Thou hadst better read no more; for the more thou readest, the more thou wilt know. And he that knoweth his Lord's will and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes." I paused a little, and then resolved, let the consequences be what they may, I will proceed. When I came to those words, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the children of God," as I fixed my eyes upon them, in a moment, my darkness was removed, and the Spirit did bear witness with my Spirit, that I was a child of God. In the same instant I was filled with unspeakable peace and joy in believing: all fear of death, judgment, and hell, suddenly vanished. Before this, I was kept awake by anguish and fear; so that I could not get an hour's sound sleep in a night. Now I wanted no sleep, being abundantly refreshed by contemplating the rich display of God's mercy, in adopting so unworthy a creature as me, to be an heir of the kingdom of heaven!
This peace and joy continued about three weeks: