Billy Graham Center

Papers of John Cennick - Collection 150

[Note: The BGC Archives does not have the original documents of this collection. What it does have is a microfilm edition of the papers, which it purchased from a publisher, as did many other archives and libraries.]

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent.]

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of John Cennick

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

Lists of Microfilm in This Collection (Location Records)


Brief Description.
Microfilm of bound manuscript in which Cennick recounts his missionary efforts for the Moravian church in Wiltshire, England, Dublin, and Northern Ireland. Information on John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. On the same reel are shorter accounts of Moravian missions in Labrador in the 1770's, Persia in the 1740's, and the West Indies. Vol: 1 Reel of Microfilm CN # 150 .

Collection 150
[March 1, 2001]
Cennick, John; 1718-1755
Memoirs; 1740-1751
1 Reel of Microfilm


Originals of this microfilm are the property of the Bristol Moravian Church Archives. Microfilm was prepared by Micro Methods, Ltd., East Ardsley, Wakefield, Workshire, England.

There are no restrictions stated on the microfilm.


John Cennick was born December 12, 1718, in Reading, Berkshire, England. Although his parents were of Quaker background, he was reared in the Church of England. As a young man, he came under the influence of John Wesley and gave up a career as a surveyor to join the Methodist movement. Wesley appointed him a teacher at Kingswood School, Bristol, and it was in Kingswood that he preached his first public sermon on June 14, 1739, at the age of twenty. Because of doctrinal differences, he left the Wesleys and aligned himself with George Whitefield, but later still joined the Moravian Brethren and was ordained by them in 1749.

For the decade prior to his ordination, Cennick worked as a lay preacher, traveling constantly. He is remembered not so much as a missionary, but as a hymn-writer, author of works such as "Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending" and "Children of the Heavenly King."

Cennick married in about 1747, and left descendants when he died in London, July 4, 1755. He was buried in the Moravian Cemetery, Chelsea.

Scope and Content

Although the title of this collection is the Memoirs of John Cennick, the microfilm also contains three other manuscripts from early Moravian church work: these concern the founding of the Labrador mission, 1771-1772; a missionary account of an Atlantic voyage, undated; and journals about Persian missions, 1748-1749. Cennick's memoirs, however, comprise the major bulk of the material.

The memoirs are in bound manuscript form, and appear to have been copied into the book from an earlier draft. The handwriting is that of Cennick's. There are three chapters: 1. "Memorable Passages relating to the Awakening in Wilts[hire] wch. began in ye Year 1740," 2. "An account of ye most remarkable passages relating to the awakening in Dublin in Ireland from the Begining till the Settling of ye Congregation," and 3. "The most remarkable Things wch happen'd from the time of the Awakening in ye North of Ireland." Cennick recounts the history of these three missionary efforts, giving great detail to religious discussions, controversies, persecutions, etc. He also follows the progress of the work with accounts of salvation and the state of the Church. On several occasions he refers to his sisters Anne and Sally who were apparently church leaders. He seldom mentions his wife.

Topics of substance in the memoirs are listed here in the order in which they appear in the volume.

Chapter 1: "Memorable Passages relating to the Awakening in Wilts. wch. began in ye Year 1740."
1740 Invitation by William Orchard, a tailor of Castlecoom, Wiltshire
List of place preached
I was about a year in Wilts. alone & had no help from any person & often I staid only a few days & at other times 2 or 3 weeks together."
"Thus i did fr. the time of my disagreeing with Mr. Wesley 'till I intirely mingled with Mr. Whitefield & his friends..."
Controvery: the Wiltshire brethren spoke so evangelically, they were considered by most Methodist "to be tinctur'd with Antinominism."
Description of church services conducted by laity
1741 Continuation of work in Wiltshire
Wesleyan doctrine of free will and sinless perfection rejected
Service "hinder'd... by a great mobb" who fire guns into the air and turn water hoses on Cennick and fellow preacher Howell Harris of Wales. Persecution spearheaded by a Mr. Gothard.
He is burned in effigy
Home of their host attacked
God prevents a second persecution; horrible deaths of hecklers
Chapel dedicated
A hanging for horse-thievery
They are beaten again; several tales of persecutions
Terrible death of Mr. Gothard and others, which gives cause to pause before persecuting Cennick
Ann Lawrence, self-styled prophetess, at whose meetings people "fell into strange fitts." "Ann gave out that these agonies were ye pangs of ye New-Birth without wch none cd be sav'd." Early success of this "delusion," description of the fits, and end of the delusion.
1742 Salvation comes to a man shortly before his death
Mr. Edwards, a "Welsh exhorter," considered by Cennick to be a hypocrite
Jonathan Wildboar, preacher of "a sort of ridged Calvinism" involved in theft; lifestyle brings injury upon entire Church
Chapel founded
Death of a Saint
Mr. Edwards and Mr. Jones start a Presbyterian; church
Three Deaths to smallpox; lengthy obituary of one
Thomas Beswick and wife come to live in Wiltshire, he a collier who preached "with blessing 'till falling into ye most rigid Doctrines of Reprobation be became dry in his Heart." Beswick leaves ministry.
Several accounts of religious persecution
1743 An imposter tries to preach and is repulsed
Riot at Clack, and subsequent lawsuits
Death of Richard Gotly (referred to many times previously), aged 21. "Awakened" via Charles Wesley's preaching and finally brought to Christianity by Cennick's sister Sally. Back sliding toward end of life.
Death of blasphemer
October 16: George Whitefield leads a service; a young man accepts salvation just before his death; his dying testimony
Other deaths of saints and reprobates
1744 Saint denied burial in parish churchyard "because she belong'd to our
Society"; Cennick buries her in his own yard--beginning of a Moravian cemetary here
Other deaths
April 3: Meeting of the first association of Wiltshire preachers and ministers, total of nine present, with George Whitefield present. List of 25 decisions made by body; item ten calls for rapprochment between Whitefield and Wesley.
Persecution of civil magistrates; general persecutions
Church/pastor relations break down
1745 Deaths of Saints
December 15: Conference of the Stewards, at which Cennick tells "how I left ye Methodist & was come among ye Brethren." Stewards issue an invitation to Moravian brethren to take Wilshire societies (churches) into their care. Signed by both men and women.
1746 Steward John Smith dies, a good young man but "intangled with a woman of Stockham Marsh, by wch means [he] lost his ardency & simplicity," aged about 22 years
Various deaths
1747 Obituary of brother Edward Stone (1718-1747), story of his religious walk.
List of Burials in Teherton Burying-ground (total of twenty) and list of Moravians buried elsewhere in area (total of eleven), 1742-47
Chapter 2. "An account of ye most remarkable passages relating to the awakening in Dublin in Ireland from the Begining till the Setting of ye Congregation."
1744 Two young men come from Dublin to London and are invited by their hostess to hear Cennick preach at the "Tabernacle"
He is invited to come to Dublin
1745 His initial prejudice again Ireland and the Irish
Sails September 30 for Ireland; bad weather turns him back; spends winter in Germany
1746 Leaves Germany in May, for Ireland, arriving June 3; first impressions of Dublin
Beginning of ministry there; a dying minister's predictions for Cennicks' success; persecutions vs. gains made
Detractor quotes heavily from Gilbert Tennant; religious view of detractors
Priest writes a pamphlet against Cennick
Crowds of over 1000 gather to hear him
Heckled by Methodist; detractor pulls a sword on him
Catholic priests threaten excommunication to any who hear Cennick, calling him "a Devil in human shape, & no real man"
Letter from a Carmelite priest blessing his work
Theological debates
1746 Continued evangelism
Dangerous mob threaten ministry
Sheriff befriends him
Severe persecutions by Roman Catholic authorities
He sails for Wiltshire; progress of the Dublin work in his abscence
Trouble with Baptists
1747 Returns to Dublin; recounting of troubles since his departure
Some send to Wesley to supply Methodist preachers
Dissention among the saints
Dublin society (church) numbers 520
Application to Lord Mayor for protection; description of the persons involved in mobs
Meeting of society leaders, September 21; list of leaders, men and women, with former denomination affiliation given
1748 Controversy with the Methodists
General history of the congregation
Cennick becomes a prisoner
He leaves Dublin
Chapter 3. "The most remarkable Things wch happen'd from the time of the Awakening in ye North of Ireland."
1746 Joseph Deane, Ballymenagh shopkeeper, comes to Dublin, hears Cennick preach, and invites him to Northern Ireland
Oppressiveness of spirit upon entering Ballymenagh
Examination by local pastors
Beginning of his ministry there; signs of God's approbation
He is accused of being a Scottish Covenanter
Poor state of religion in Ballymenagh
He is bodily removed from Ballymenagh by Lord of the Manor
Goes to Antrim, and thence to Dublin
1748 Two years later, Deane calls on him again in Dublin; many desire his preaching in Northern Ireland, but it is not safe; Cennick goes anyway; local man describes low spiritual state of region; he is welcomed by the faithful
Local ministers warn him not to preach
Brought before a kangaroo court, which only adds to his popularity
List of places preached
Recounting of the preaching of Scottish Presbyterian Mr. Peden on same spot in 1684, and his prophesies which seem to be fulfilled in Cennick
Brought before civil authorities; his defence; he is put in prison for refusal to swear (take and oath)
Received by bishop, examined and given leave to preach in diocese
He and wife set up housekeeping
Debate with a Scottish Presbyterian
He is jeered at Ballymenagh Horse Races, and is delivered from it
1749 Preaching and conversions; Presbyterians ridicule him; his self-defence
List of places preached
1750 Dissention among the Brethren; reconciliation
Opening of a chapel
Organization of several Brethren societies
Chapel destroyed in a storm; his premonition that something would happen
Christmas Day services
1751 A deist-atheist comes over to Moravian cause
Scotch Seceder (Associate Presbyterian) questions him re the Trinity and other doctrines, especially predestination; his defence
Moravian hymnody

The other sections of manuscripts contained on this film are briefly described below.

I. "Account from the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel, Containing the Diary from the little congregation at Nain in Esquinary [?] Bay on the coast of Labrador from Sept 25th 1771 to the end of October 1772."

When one Brother Hill sailed from London in 1772 with provisions for the mission colony, numbering fourteen inhabitants, he brought back with him the journal kept by the congregation concerning their missionary efforts among the Eskimos. This 84-page item is a copy of that original journal, recounting the history of the mission from its founding.

II. "Journey Across the Atlantic ca. 18th Century"

Undated, unsigned journal of 8 pages, with cover page missing, describing a missionary voyage across the Atlantic and among some West Indian islands. It is stamped on the back, "Bristol Moravian Church Archives." The archives put its date between 1551 and 1770, but the style of handwriting indicates a date of late 17th century or later.

III. "Brother Hocker's Diary from Ispahan and his Journey Back to Livorno from 28 March 1748 to April 9th 17489."
42 pages, apparently a copy of original diary. Persian mission.

"Bro. Hocker E. Ruffers Diary of their Journey to Ispahan."
32 pages, covering August 24 to March 20 of the following year, no year given.



The microfilm in this collection was purchased by the Graham Center Archives. Original manuscripts are in the possession of the Moravian Church Archives, Bristol.

No Accession #
September 24, 1982
Galen R. Wilson

Type of Material: Microfilm

The following items are located in the CENTER LIBRARY MICROFILM ROOM:

All reels are 35mm, positive copy.

Reel 1 - Memoir book of John Cennick
Chapter 1; 1740-1747
Chapter 2; 1744-1748
Chapter 3; 1746-1751
Journal from small missionary colony recording efforts among Eskimos; 1771-1772
Journal describing a missionary voyage across the Atlantic; ca. 1700s
Diary of Persian missionaries; 1748-1750

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Last Revised: 3/01/01
Expiration: indefinite