In contrast to the soporific mood of "The Sleepy Congregation," this plate depicts a Methodist service in infernal terms. Stressing the connection between sexual and religious excitement, it focuses on the affinity between various forms of enthusiasm and madness. An avaricious preacher-performer, "St Money-trap," dressed as a harlequin, bellows on the ironic text, "I Speak as a Fool"; his roar has cracked the sounding board above him. In his athletic act the imposter has lost his wig with its satiric halo to reveal the tonsure of a Catholic priest. He terrorizes his congregation by two puppets, a devil with a broiling iron and a witch offering her milk to an animal. Around his pulpit hang three doll ghosts, one of Julius Caesar and two from the eighteenth century, "Mrs. Veal" and "Sr. Geo. Vill[i]ers."
Below, a minister in heat thrusts an icon down the dress of an estatic girl. Beside them a devil whispers in a sleeper's ear; another man weeps. "The Poors Box," undistrubed by contributions, is covered with a web. In the foreground two "magicians" perform "supernatural" acts. A woman splinters a gin glass in the throes of giving birth to rabbits; she is probably meant to represent a Mrs. Tofts famed for this trick. Beside her a shoeshine boy spits nails. His sources of inspiration are a gin bottle corked with an icon, "Whitfields Journal" and "Demonology by K. James 1st," the first Stuart king of England. A dazed fellow, traditionally identified as a Jew, kills lice; by his book he keeps a knife inscribed "Bloody" which belies his conversion. At a lectern on which "Continually do Cry" appears, two disembodied cherubs with birds' wings (satires on bad church art) surround the clerk who may be in the likeness of Whitfield. Theman seems to observe the lovers dourly; by his side is the ambiguous text,"Only Love to us be giv'n/ Lord we ask no other Heav'n/ Hymn By G. Whitfeld Page 130."
The ape-like faces of the congregation are convulsed with emotion. Over them hangs a chandelier resembling a grotesque creature. The threatening celestial mechanism is inscribed: "A new and correct globe of hell bby Romaine"' one eye reads "Bottomless Pit," the other "Molten Lead Lake"; the nose is inscribed "Pitch and Tar Rivers," the mouth "Eternal Damnation Gulf"; one cheek reads "Parts Unknown," the other "Brimstone Ocean"; the equator line is marked "Horrid Zone" and the small sphere above "Deserts of new Purgatory." The amazed "infidel" gazing on the Christian scene and the bars on the windows give a prison or madhouse atmosphere to the place.
Two thermometers replace the usual church hourglass. The top one, surmounted by a nose adn mouth bawling "Blood Blood Blood Blood," measures "Vociferation." The bottom one, which has as its bulb an enlarged (and distempered?) human brain resting on "Wesley's Sermons" and "Glanvil on Witches," depicts various degrees and state of "religious" emotion from "Suicide" to "Raving Madness." Though the congregation seems convulsed it registers only "Luke Warm." The thermometer is surmounted by a portal in which stands a notorious "ghost" of the period; most of teh congregation carry its image. Above it stands the image of a Roundhead soldier-preacher called "Tedworth" who is supposed to have haunted a man who once attacked him.
[Excerpt from Engravings by Hogarth, edited by Sean Shesgreen (Dover, 1973).]