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I was expelled on a Saturday afternoon. I was unable to stay till the closing scene, as I had an engagement to preach anniversary sermons on the Sunday, some thirty miles away. But the news soon reached me, and I received it with strange and indescribable emotions. I felt that something very important had happened,—that I was placed in a new and serious position, and was entering on a new and untried way of life; but I little dreamt what the results would be. I expected an eventful future, but not the kind of future that was really waiting for me. I anticipated trials, and sorrows, and great changes; but how strangely differ-. ent the realities have proved from what I anticipated in my fevered dreams! But I had strong faith in God, and a firm trust in His all-perfect Providence, and no one saw me tremble or turn pale.
I had not been expelled long when I found myself face to face with a terrible host of trials. Some who had promised to stand by my side took fright, and left me to my fate. Some found their interests were endangered by their attachment to me, and fell away. Some were influenced by the threats of their masters, and some by the tears and entreaties of their kindred, and reluctantly joined the ranks of my enemies. Some thought I should have yielded a point or two, and were vexed at what they called my obstinacy. There were fearful and melancholy changes. People who had always heretofore received me with smiles of welcome, now looked cold and gloomy. Some raged, some wept, and some embraced me with unspeakable tenderness; while some wished me dead, and said it had been better for me if I had never been born.
One man, a person of considerable influence, who had encouraged me in my movements, and joined me in lamenting the shortcomings of the Connexion, and in condemning the conduct of my opponents, no sooner saw that I was
doomed, than he sent me a most unfeeling letter. I met the postman and got the letter in the street, and read it as I walked along. It pained me terribly, but it comforted me to think that it had not fallen into the hands of my delicate and sensitive wife. That no other eye might see it, and no other soul be afflicted with the treachery and cruelty of the writer, I tore it in pieces, and threw it into the Tyne, and kept the matter a secret from those whose souls it might have shocked too rudely for endurance.
Another man, who had said to me a short time before my expulsion, that whoever else might close their doors against me, his would always be open, proved as faithless as the basest. I called one day at his shop. As soon as he saw me, he turned away his eyes, and stood motionless and speechless behind the counter, as if agitated with painful and unutterable passion. I saw his family move hurriedly from the room behind the shop to another room, as if afraid lest I should step forward into their sence. The man kept his door open sure enough, his shop door; but his heart was closed, and he never spoke to me more as long as he lived.
One day I went with a brother of mine to the house of a tradesman near Gateshead, a member and a leading man in the New Connexion, on a matter of business. As soon as the person saw me, he began to abuse me in a very extravagant manner. Í had always had a favorable opinion of the man, and I quietly answered, "I can excuse your severity; for you no doubt are acting conscientiously." "That is more than I believe you are doing," he answered, and turned away.
There was great excitement throughout the whole Connexion. And while many were transported with rage, great numbers took my part. The feeling in my favor was both strong and very general. One-third of the whole Connexion probably separated from my opponents, and formed themselves into a new society. Several ministers joined them, and had not the chapels been secured to the Conference, it is probable that the greater portion of the community would have seceded. As it was, the existence of the Body seemed in peril, and the leaders found it necessary to strain every nerve to save it from utter destruction.
And they were not particular as to the means they used. Before my expulsion even my enemies had considered me a virtuous, godly man, and acknowledged me to be a most laborious and successful minister. Now they fabricated and circulated all manner of slanderous reports respecting me. One day they gave it out that I had broken my teetotal pledge, and had been taken up drunk out of the gutter, and wheeled home in a wheelbarrow. Then it was discovered that I had not broken my pledge, but I had been seen nibbling a little Spanish juice, so it was said I was eating opium, and killing myself as fast as the poison could destroy me.
At another time it was said I had gone stark mad, and had been smothered to death between two beds. A friend came, pale and dismally sorrowful, to condole with my wife on the dreadful catastrophe, and was himself almost mad with delight when he found that I was in the parlor writing, as well and as sane as usual.
ABUSE AND PERSECUTION.
Then it was reported that I had applied for a place in the ministry among the Calvinists, though I had up to that time professed views at variance with Calvinism, and had even objected to be a hired minister. When I called for the names of the parties to whom I had made the offer, and engaged to give a large reward if my slanderers would produce them, they found it was another Joseph that had applied for the place, and not Joseph Barker. But the death of one slander seemed to be the birth of two or three
fresh ones. And sometimes opposite slanders sprang up together. "If he had been a good man," said one, "he would have stopped in the Connexion quietly, and waited for reform!" "If he had been an honest man," said another, "he would have left the Connexion long ago, and not remained in a community that he thought in error." I had been “too hasty" for one, and "too slow" for another. One wrote to assure me that I should die a violent death in less than eighteen months. Another said he foresaw me lying on my death-bed, with Satan sitting on my breast, ready to carry away my soul to eternal torments. One sent me a number of my pamphlets blotted and torn, packed up with a piece of wood, for the carriage of which I was charged from four to five shillings. Another sent me a num
ber of my publications defaced in another way, with offensive enclosures that do not admit of description.
At one time it was reported that I had died suddenly at Leeds. "After lecturing there one night," the story said, “a certain person got upon the platform to oppose me, and I was so frightened, that I first turned pale, then fainted, and in two hours breathed my last." I was preaching at Penrith, in Cumberland, some seventy or eighty miles away, at the time I was said to have died at Leeds.
Some weeks later it was rumored that I had destroyed myself at Otley. The maker of the tale in this case had been very particular, and given his story the appearance of great truthfulness. He said I had gone to lecture at Otley, and on my arrival there, was found to be more than usually thoughtful and depressed. I lectured with my usual freedom and power, but seemed oppressed with some mysterious sorrow. After the lecture, instead of going along with my host, I unaccountably disappeared, and though my friends sought for me and inquired for me all about the town, I was nowhere to be found. In the morning, as the son of my host was seeking for some cows in a wood on the side of the Chevin, he found me dead and cold, with my throat cut, and the razor in my hand with which I had done the deadly deed. The news soon spread, and my body was taken back to Otley, where an inquest was held. The verdict was that I had died by my own hand, in a fit of temporary insanity.
These stories were printed and published, and circulated through the whole country. They were shouted aloud in the street opposite my own door, in the hearing of my wife and family, during my absence. At first my wife and children were terribly alarmed when they heard men crying, “The melancholy death of Mr. Joseph Barker." But they got so used to me dying and destroying myself in time, that they took such matters more calmly, especially as I always came again, and appeared no worse for the terrible deaths through which I had been made to pass.
For a year or two my enemies published a periodical called The Beacon, every page of which they filled with malignant slanders. The loss of members exasperated them past measure. The danger which threatened the Con
nexion drove them mad. They took up evil reports respecting me without consideration. They looked on all I did with an evil eye, and recklessly charged me with wicked devices which had no existence but in their own disturbed imaginations. One charged me with having acted inconsistently with my views with regard to the use of money, and another with having acted inconsistently with my belief with regard to baptism. Any tale to my discredit was welcome, and the supply of slanderous tales seemed infinite. They wrested my words, they belied my deeds, they misinterpreted my motives, they misrepresented the whole course of my life, and the whole texture of my character.
One of the pitiful slanders circulated by my enemies was the following. My custom was, when I went out to lecture, or to preach anniversary sermons, to charge only my coach fares, rendering my services gratis. For eighteen years I never charged a penny either for preaching or lecturing. But the people of Berry Brow, near Huddersfield, said I had charged them thirty shillings for preaching their anniversary sermons, and the Conference party took the trouble to spread the contemptible charge through the Con
The facts of the case were these: I had an engagement to preach anniversary sermons at Hanley, in the Staffordshire Potteries. The Berry Brow people heard of this, and as I had to pass their place on my way to Hanley, they requested me to spend a Sabbath with them, and preach their anniversary sermons. I did so, and charged them thirty shillings, about one-third of the expenses of my journey, taking the other two-thirds from the Hanley people. This was all.
Of course such matters would not be worth naming, if it were not to show how much there was in the conduct of my persecutors to give me a dislike to their character, and to prejudice me against their views.
That you may have an idea of my labors as a preacher, take the following account of one week's work, when I was lecturing against the infidel Socialists, previous to my expulsion. I had preached three times on the Sunday, walked six miles, and attended to several other duties. At half past