The Yorkshire village of Haworth was the scene of William Grimshaw's evangelical ministry a century before it became world-famous by its association with the Brontë family. Wesley visited it on a number of occasions, beginning in 1747, often on a Sunday. He was welcomed also by Grimshaw's successor, John Richardson and his visits, although less frequent in later years, continued until April 1790.
An eye-witness account of Wesley's last visit has survived. 'He was accompanied by Joseph Bradford, who had the leading thoughts of his discourse written on slips of paper. When he found the memory of the venerable preacher at fault, he put before him the slip containing the thought he intended to express, which was at once taken up and the discourse continued in its appointed order.'
John Wesley's Journal:
May 1747: 'I read prayers and preached in Haworth church to a numerous congregation.'
August 1748: 'At five Mr. Grimshaw read the prayers and I preached at Haworth, to more than the church could contain. We began the service in the morning at five; and even then the church was nearly filled.'
May 1753: 'I rode to Haworth, where Mr. Grimshaw read prayers, and I preached to a crowded congregation.'
May 1755: 'The rain began about five, and did not intermit till we came to Haworth; notwithstanding which a multitude of people were gathered together at ten. In the afternoon I was obliged to go out of the church, abundance of the people not being able to get in. The rain ceased from the moment I came out till I had finished my discourse.'
May 1757: 'After preaching at five, I tool horse for Haworth. A December storm met us upon the mountain, but this did not hinder such a congregation as the church could not contain. I suppose we had near a thousand communicants, and scace a trifler among them. In the afternoon, the church not containing more than a third of the people, I was constrained to be in the churchyard. The rain began as soon as I began to speak, but they regarded it not, for God sent into their hearts
The former and the latter rain; The love of God, and love of man.
July 1759: 'At ten Mr. Milner read prayers, but the church would not near contain the congregation; so, after prayers, I stood on a scaffold close to the church, and the congregation in the churchyard. The communicants alone filled the church. In the afternoon the congregation was nearly doubled; and yet most of these were not curious hearers, but men fearing God.'
July 1761: 'I had appointed to be at Haworth; but the church would not near contain the people who came from all sides; however, Mr. Grimshaw had provided for this by fixing a scaffold on the outside of one of the windows, through which I went after prayers, and the people likewise all went out into the churchyard. The afternoon congregation was larger still. What has God wrought in the midst of these rough mountains! [Next day] 'At five I preached on the manner of waiting for "perfect love"; the rather to satisfy Mr. Grimshaw, whom many had laboured to puzzle and perplex about it. So once more their bad labour was lost, and we were more united both in heart and judgement than ever.'
August 1766: 'When the prayers at Haworth were ended, I preached from a little scaffold on the south side of the church, on those words in the Gospel, "Oh that thou hadst known the things that belong to thy peace!" The communicants alone (a sight which has not been seen since Mr. Grimshaw's death) filled the church. In the afternoon the congregation was supposed to be the largest which had ever been there; but the strength was given me in proportion; so that I believe all could hear.'
July 1770: 'Being much concerned for the poor parishioners of Haworth, who hear and hear, and are no more affected than stones, I spoke to them in the most cutting manner I could. May God apply it to their hearts!'
July 1772: 'Not half the congregation at Haworeth could get into the church in the morning, nor a third part in the afternoon. So I stood on a kind of pulpit near the side of the church. Such a congregation was never seen there before; and I believe all heard distinctly.'
April 1774: 'It being a cold and stormy day, Haworth Church contained the people tolerably well.'
April 1776: 'The congregation at Haworth was far greater than the church could contain. For the sake of the poor parishioners, few of whom are even awakened to this day, I spoke as strongly as I possibly could on these words: "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved."
April 1779: 'In the morning I preached in Haworth church; but in the afternoon I could not. Thousands upon thousands were gathered together, so that I was obliged to stand in the churchyard. And I believe all that stood still were able to hear distinctly.'
April 1788: 'I preached at Haworth church in the morning, crowded sufficiently.'