Webb, Thomas

Webb, Thomas prominent in the early history of Methodism, was an English soldier-for several years lieutenant of the Forty-eighth Regiment of Foot-and a man of wealth and education. He lost an eye and was nearly killed in the storming and capture of the French fort of Louisburg, Acadia (Nova Scotia), in 1758; and was, with Washington, one of the few officers who survived the terrible slaughter at the battle known as "Braddock's Defeat" the unsuccessful attack in 1755 on the French fort Duquesne, where Pittsburgh, Pa., now stands. Four years afterwards he scaled the Heights of Abraham with Genesis Wolf, an. saw Canada pass forever from the hands of France. He was converted under a sermon preached by Wesley, in Bristol, in 1765; united with the Methodist society, and commenced preaching. We next hear of him as barrack-master at Albany, N.Y. The report that the Methodists had commenced meetings in New, York reached the ears of the zealous captain, and he at once repaired thither (spring of 1767). Webb was the providential man. "The little society needed a leader- Webb was born to command. They needed another preacher of more experience, learning, and power-Webb was one of the best preachers then on the continent of America. They needed money wherewith to use their young society Webb was rich and generous.... It would have been a hard matter for them to have suited themselves by a choice, out of all the Methodist preachers, better than God "had suited them" (Daniels, Hist. of Methodism, p. 388). The congregations became too large, and in 1768 John Street Church was dedicated, Webb being one of the principal contributors in meeting the expenses of the new building. The military authorities now placed the captain on the retired list, but with full pay. He at once commenced itinerating. He introduced Methodism into Long Island at Jamaica; founded societies at Pemberton, Burlington, and Trenton, N.J.; traversed Delaware and Maryland; became the pioneer of Methodism in Philadelphia, where he preached in a sail-loft and formed a class in 1768, and two years after gave liberally for the purchase of St. George's Church. The work was now spreading rapidly. Help was needed. Webb sailed for England in 1772; preached in Dublin, London, etc.; made a stirring appeal before the Leeds Conference; and in 1773 returned with Shadforld, Railkin, and Yearbry. He continued his evangelistic labor still after the breaking-out of the Revolutionary War, being one of the last of the English preachers to leave; but finally the country became too hot for him, and he bade a reluctant good-bye to America the scene of so many struggles and victories in his eventual and varied life. On his return to England, he secured a home for his family in Portland, on the heights of Bristol; but still traveled and preached extensively in chapels, in market-places and in the open air, listened to to immense congregations. The French prisoners at Willchester (1776-82) and the soldiers and sailors at Portsmouth were benefited by his labors. In 1792 he was liberal and active in the erection of Portland Chapel, at that time one of the most elegant meeting-houses in the Methodist connection. The old soldier and evangelist died Dec. 20, 1796, aged seventy-two years, and was laid to rest under the chancel of Portland Chapel.

Wesley writing to a friend in Limerick, said, "Captain Webb is a man of fire, and the power of God constantly attends his word" (Jour. Feb. 2, 1773; Works [3rd. ed. Lend.], 12:378). Charles Wesley speaks of him as an "inexperienced, honest, zealous, loving enthusiast." In 1774 John Adams says, "Mr. Webb is one of the most fluent, eloquent men ever heard. He reaches the imagination, and touches the passions very well, and expresses himself with great propriety." See Atmorc, Meth. Mem. s.v. Stevens, Hist. of Meth. 1, 427; 3, 99; id. Hist. of 21. E. Ch. (Index), vol. 4; Porter, Hist. of Meth. p. 247-50, 261; Simpson, Cyclop. of Meth. s.v.

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