James Glasbrook

British Circuit-Riding Preacher James Glasbrook braves the rain

Early in Francis Asbury’s preaching career, Pastor James Glasbrook was one of Francis Asbury’s mentors. This teaching began when Francis was 20 years old. James Glasbrook was born in Bedfordshire, England. It was the London Conference of 1767 which was held at John Wesley’s Foundry Church that assigned the twenty-two-year-old, Francis Asbury, to the Bedfordshire Circuit. For the next twelve months, Francis Asbury services the Bedfordshire circuit with Pastor James Glasbrook. But this was not their first meeting together.

James Glasbrook Mentors Francis Asbury

 Two years before in 1765, Francis Asbury and James Glasbrook have their first meeting when Pastor James Glasbrook was assigned to prepare the newly appointed on-trial circuit-preacher for a life as a circuit-riding Wesleyan preacher. The meeting of the two covered many of the basics for a traveling preacher. Items such as the necessity of prayer, one hour twice each day, the ability to keep their temper when opposed, the discipline of not running to the judgment of individuals’ motives, all these and more were covered in detail by James Glasbrook. Even the delicate subject of meeting with members of the opposite sex. Wesley’s circuit-riding preachers were by no means to meet in private, one on one with a member of the opposite sex.

James Glasbrook and John Wesley

Francis Asbury was quickly drawn to James Glasbrook once James shared a story from his past. The prompting of this storytelling was on account of Francis Asbury discovering a telling scar on the wrist of James Glasbrook. The story covered in the book, Black Country, goes as follows:

Catching Francis staring at the mark, the itinerant observes,

            “You have taken notice of the permanent marking of my arm . . . ?”

     Glasbrook brings forward his left hand and begins to roll back the white shirt cuff and dark coat sleeve covering his right arm. The action slowly reveals a nasty scar that goes well up to his elbow.

     Francis’s face is flushed with shock. Noticing the young man’s reaction, the pastor offers insight.

“Several years ago I had the privilege of traveling with Wesley. The beautiful island nation of Ireland was verging upon an awakening. Amidst this movement, many were turned against us.

“One glorious day in June, William Ley, Wesley, and I arrived in Carrick-Upon-Shannon. Our plan was to preach to the good people of this scenic town. Many there took notice of our arrival. In thirty minutes, or perhaps just under one hour, a local esquire, the justice of the peace, approached us. In his hand, he held a drum, and behind him was an unruly mob set to disrupt the gathering. He paused to turn and speak his vile words toward the group that neared one hundred persons. By then, Wesley was already in the garden behind the house, preaching his sermon; I stood on the rear balcony overlooking John and his faithful. Inside the home, William Ley remained at the front door, resting in a chair.

“I hadn’t noticed the approaching group until I was alarmed by the commotion of the esquire beating William with the stick he intended for the drum. I immediately bolted shut the door to the rear yard, the sole access to Wesley out back, and stood my guard. The approaching justice of the peace divested himself of his drum, accepted a walking cane from a nearby resident, and proceeded straight for me. I braced myself, fearing not only the wooden walking implement that could easily become a weapon but also the several dozen who followed the man into the home. As several of the group carried William outside, the man of law bent on violence approached.

            “ ‘Where is Wesley?’

“My reply was simple enough:

            “ ‘He is not inside, and you are not going through this door to the outside.’

            “ ‘Where is he?’

“His second request was much more forceful. Pushing at me, he demanded that I step away from the door. I would not. Subsequently, he turned and parted the crowd behind him, thus making his way out the front door.

“Within moments the brawling leader was out back, at the garden wall.

“Intent on stopping Wesley, the crazed man scaled the garden wall. It was a difficult task for the portly fellow, clawing his large frame upward; however, he succeeded. Once over the wall, he launched for John, bumping him with his chest as he proclaimed,

            “ ‘You shall not preach here today.’

“The obnoxious visitor added a few unsavory curses and proclamations, but I needn’t elaborate.

“In a manner that only John Wesley could accomplish, he recovered his balance, straightened his coat and hat, and then gently responded to the madman,

            “ ‘Sir, I do not intend it, for I have already preached here today.’

“This infuriated the man. He began to beat the ground with his cane. At this, Wesley calmly walked away and entered the house from the rear door where I stood.

“When the lone attacker came to the realization that Wesley had left, he must have quickly darted for the rear door.

“Unobserved, he entered through the door. Catching sight of him, I leapt to stand in his path as he aimed for Wesley; he immediately began to beat me with his stick. With my right arm, I braced myself against the wall. He proceeded to lower the club, beating my arm until the flesh was blue and torn. I would not release the wall, fearing that if I did so, I would retaliate. After a dozen blows and my blood that flowed, he realized I would not release. One final blow snapped the stick in half. With half his weapon lost, he turned from me and with the defeated club swiped Wesley’s hat off his head. He spent the next minutes valiantly beating and stomping the hat of that dear man, at least until a gentleman rescued the maligned item from his wrath.”

     By now, Francis was sitting in silence, his jaw stiff from remaining slightly open and without movement for nearly the entire length of the story. He gains his composure, closes his lips, and looks to the floor. “Fearing I would retaliate.” Glasbrook’s brave words resonate in his mind. I don’t think I could have just stood there.

     The pastor gives enough time for Francis to meditate on the event. He then suggests,

“Let’s move on, shall we?”