Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

London. For some time he laboured in concert with Mr. Wesley and the other preachers. But this did not continue. The sower of tares, the enemy

of God and man, began now again to pervert the right ways of the Lord. While hundreds rejoiced in God their Saviour with joy unspeakable and full of glory, and yet walked humbly with him, being zealous of whatsoever things are pure, and lovely, and of good report;' others were not so minded. Instead of the faith which worketh by love, Antinomianism reared its head again. Dreams, visions, and revelations were now honoured more than the written word. Some of the preachers bluntly and sharply opposed the spreading errors; which seemed only to make things worse. But on Mr. Wesley's arrival in town, the visionaries stood reproved. For a considerable time, however, as he himself confesses, he knew not how to act. He saw that much good was done; but he also saw that much evil was intermixed. Some who appeared to be very useful among the people, nevertheless encouraged those things which are subversive of true order, and contrary to Scripture. He loved Mr. Maxfield much, and hoped all good concerning him: Yet he could not but see that he rather encouraged those evils than opposed them. He, therefore, retired to Canterbury for a few days, from whence he sent him the following letter:

“ Without any preface or ceremony, which is needless between you and me, I will simply and plainly tell you what I dislike, in your doctrine, spirit, or outward behaviour. When I say yours, I include brother Bell and Owen, and those who are most closely connected with them.

“1. I like your doctrine of Perfection, or pure love; love excluding sin : Your insisting, that it is merely by faith ; that consequently it is instantaneous, (though preceded and followed by a gradual work,) and that it may be now, at this instant.

“ But I dislike your supposing a man may be as perfect as an angel; that he can be absolutely perfect; that he can be infallible, or above being tempted; or, that the moment he is pure in heart, he cannot fall from it. “ I dislike the saying, “This was not known or taught among us,

till within two or three years. I grant, you did not know it. You have over and over denied instantaneous* sanctification to me. But I have known and taught it, (and so has my brother, as our writings show,) above these twenty years.

“ I dislike your directly or indirectly depreciating justification ; saying, a justified person is not in Christ, is not born of God, is not sanctified, not a temple of the Holy Ghost; or that he cannot please God, or cannot grow in grace.

“ I dislike your saying, that one, saved from sin, needs nothing more than looking to Jesus, needs not to hear or think of any thing else : Believe, believe, is enough ; that he needs no self-examination, no times of private prayer ; needs not mind little or outward things ; and that he cannot be taught by any person, who is not in the same state.

“ I dislike your affirming, that justified persons in general persecute them that are saved from sin; that they have persecuted you on this account; and that, for two years past, you have been more persecuted by the two brothers, than ever you was by the world in all your

life. * By instantaneous sanctification, Mr. Wesley always meant the principle of entire sanctification, which St. John calls perfect love ;' that is, love that casts out all opposite tempers. May not this be given in a moment?

ܪ

“ 2. As to your spirit, I like your confidence in God, and your zeal. for the salvation of souls.

“But I dislike something which has the appearance of pride, of overvaluing yourselves and undervaluing others, particularly the preachers; thinking not only that they are blind and that they are not sent of God, but even that they are dead; dead to God, and walking in the way to hell ; that they are going one way, you another ; that they have no life in them! Your speaking of yourselves, as though you were the only men who knew and taught the Gospel; and as if not only all the Clergy, but all the Methodists besides, were in utter darkness.

“ I dislike something that has the appearance of enthusiasm ; overvaluing feelings and inward impressions ; mistaking the mere work of imagination for the voice of the Spirit ; expecting the end without the means, and undervaluing reason, knowledge, and wisdom in general.

“I dislike something that has the appearance of Antinomianism ; not magnifying the law, and making it honourable ; not enough valuing tena derness of conscience, and exact watchfulness in order thereto; using faith rather as contradistinguished froin holiness, than as productive of it.

Bụt what I most of all dislike is, your littleness of love to your bre. thren, to your own Society; your want of union of heart with them, and bowels of mercies towards them; your want of meekness, gentleness, long-suffering ; your impatience of contradiction ; your counting every man your enemy that reproves or admonishes you in love ; your bigotry and narrowness of spirit, loving in a manner only those that love you ; your censoriousness, proneness to think hardly of all who do not exactly agree

in one word, your divisive spirit. Indeed, I do not believe, that any of you either design or desire a separation. But you do not enough fear, abhor, and detest it, shuddering at the very thought. And all the preceding tempers tend to it, and gradually prepare you for it. Observe, I tell you before! God grant you may immediately and affectionately take the warning!

“ 3. As to your outward behaviour, I like the general tenour of your life, devoted to God, and spent in doing good.

“But I dislike your slighting any, the very least rules of the Bands or Society; and your doing any thing that tends to hinder others from exactly observing them. Therefore,

“I dislike your appointing such meetings, as hinder others from attending either the public preaching, or their class or band; or any other meeting, which the rules of the Society or their office require them to attend.

"I dislike your spending so much time in several meetings, as many that attend can ill spare from the other duties of their calling, unless they omit either the preaching, or their class or band. This naturally tends to dissolve our Society, by cutting the sinews of it.

“As to your more public meetings, I like the praying fervently and largely for all the blessings of God. And I know much good has been done hereby, and hope much more will be done.

“ But I dislike several things therein: 1. The singing, or speaking, or praying, of several at once : 2. The praying to the Son of God only, or more than to the Father : 3. The using improper expressions in prayer; sometimes too bold, if not irreverent; sometimes too'pontpous

with you;

and magnificent, extolling yourselves rather than God, and telling him what you are, not what you want : 4. Using poor, flat, bald hymns : 5. The never kneeling at prayer : 6. Your using postures or gestures highly indecent : 7. Your screaming, even so as to make the words unintelligible : 8. Your affirming people will be justified or sanctified just now : 9. The affirming they are, when they are not: 10. The bidding them say, I believe : 11. The bitterly condemning any that oppose, calling them wolves, &c, and pronouncing them hypocrites, or not justified.

"Read this calmly and impartially before the Lord in prayer. So shall the evil cease, and the good remain. And you will then be more than ever united to

“ Your affectionate brother,

« JOHN WESLEY. Canterbury, Nov. 2, 1762.”'

It does not appear that this letter had any good effect. George Bell, mentioned above as an intimate of Mr. Maxfield, was a sergeant in the Life-Guards. He was at one time unquestionably a man of piety, of deep communion with God, and of extraordinary zeal for the conversion of souls. But he was not a man of understanding : His imagination was lively, but his judgment weak. While, therefore, he hearkened to the advice of those who had longer experience in the ways of God than himself, as well as more knowledge of the devices of Satan, he was a pattern to all, and eminently useful to his brethren. But not continuing to regard either them or his Bible he fell into enthusiasm, pride and great uncharitableness. Yet Mr. Wesley, it appears, was very tender over this poor man: “ Being determined,” says he, “ to hear for myself, I stood where I could hear and see without being seen. George Bell prayed, in the whole, pretty near an hour. His fervour of spirit I could not but admire. I afterwards told him what I did not admire : Namely, 1. His screaming every now and then in so strange a manner, that one could scarce tell what he said : 2. His thinking he had the miraculous discernment of spirits : And, 3. His sharply condemning his opposers.”

A member of the Society, soon after, observed to Mr. Wesley, “Sir, I employ several men. Now, if one of my servants will not follow my directions, is it not right in me to discard him at once? Pray, Sir, apply this to Mr. Bell.” He answered, " It is right to discard such a servant. But what would you do, if he were your son ?

All this time, he was blamed on every hand ; by some, because he did not reprove those persons; by themselves, because, as they said, he was continually reproving them.

“I had a second opportunity,” observés Mr. Wesley, "of hearing George Bell. I believe, part of what he said was from God, (this was my reflection at that time,) part from a heated imagination. But as he did not scream, and there was nothing dangerously wrong, I do not yet see cause to hinder him.”—He heard him once more on that day se'nnight. “I was then convinced,” says he, “ that he must not continue to pray at the Foundery. The reproach of Christ I am willing to bear; but not the reproach of enthusiasm, if I can help it.

“ All this time,” he proceeds, “ I did not want information from all quarters, that Mr. Maxfield was at the bottom of all this > that he was Vol. II.

18

the life of the cause ; that he was continually spiriting up all with whom he was intimate, against me ; that he told them, I was not capable of teaching them; and insinuated, that none was but himself; and that the inevitable consequence must be a division in the Society.”

But George Bell became still imore wild : And, as he took every strong impression made upon his mind for a revelation from God, he at last prophesied, in January, 1763, that “the end of the world would be on the 28th of February following." Mr. Wesley explicitly declared against this, first in the Society, then in the Congregation, and afterwards in the Public papers. When the day arrived, he preached at Spitalfields in the evening on, · Prepare to meet thy God;' thus turning to religious profit, the terror which had seized upon many. After expounding the passage, he largely showed the utter absurdity of the supposition, that the world would be at an end that night. But, notwithstanding all he could say, many were afraid to go to bed, and some wandered about in the fields, being persuaded, that if the world did not end, at least London would be swallowed up by an earthquake. But he went to bed at his usual time, and, as he notes in his Journal, was fast asleep about ten o'clock.

Things now ripened apace for a separation : To prevent which, (if possible,) he desired all the preachers, as they had time, to be present at all meetings, when he could not attend himself ; particularly at the Friday meeting, in the chapel at West-street. At this, Mr. Maxfield was highly offended, and wrote to him as follows:

“ I wrote to you, to ask if those who before met at brother Guilford's,* might not meet in the chapel. Soon after you came to town, the preachers were brought into the meeting, though you told me, again and again, they should not come.” (True, remarks Mr. Wesley, but, since I said this, there has been an entire change in the situation of things.) “Had I known this, I would rather have paid for a room out of my own pocket. I am not speaking of the people that met at the Foundery before; though I let some of them come to that meeting.-If you intend to have the preachers there to watch, and others that I think very unfit, and will not give me liberty to give leave to some that I think fit to be there, I shall not think it my duty to meet them."-So from this time he kept a separate meeting elsewhere.

Shortly after this, Mr. Maxfield refused to preach at the Foundery according to appointment. Mr. Wesley, who was at Westminster, where he intended to preach, hearing this, immediately returned to the Foundery, and preached there himself on the words of Jacob, 'If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved ! Thus was that breach made which could never afterwards be healed.

Mr. Maxfield lived about twenty years after this separation, and preached in a meeting-house near Moorfields to a large congregation. Several who separated with him, continued with him to the last; though far the greater part returned. Mr. Wesley mourned over him, as an old and valued friend, and as the first Preacher of the Gospel who submitted to his direction. But he always considered his behaviour, in the present instance, as both ungrateful and unjust; as well as giving a stab to the cause of true religion in London, from which it did not entirely recover for several years. Poor George Bell lived many years after Mr. Maxfield, but he made no pretension to religion. He was a deplorable instance of the danger which arises even to truly pious persons, from giving place to any impression that does not agree with the only true standard, the word of God. I shall have occasion to introduce Mr. Maxfield again to the reader, in way truly characteristic.

* Mr. Guilford afterwards became Itinerant; and lived, laboured, and died, in the fall Diumph of Faith.

The great revival of religion was not, however, stopped by this unhappy separation, or by the extravagance which led to it. Mr. Wesley soon after visited many parts of England, in which he found the same deep concern for genuine piety, with the same inward, experimental knowledge and love of God, as our Redeemer and Sanctifier, which had been so remarkable in London. Meantime the crowds that flocked to hear the word of God, were immense. At Newcastle-upon-Tyne, he was obliged to preach, in the open air, at five in the morning !

On his return to London, he examined the Society, and found that one hundred and seventy-five persons had separated from their brethren. But the gracious work of God still continued among those who remained.

" I stood and looked back," says he, on the late occurrences. The peculiar work of this season has been, what St. Paul calls the perfecting of the saints. Many persons in London, Bristol, York, and in various parts both of England and Ireland, have experienced so deep and universal a change, as it had not before entered into their hearts to conceive. After a deep conviction of inbred sin, of their total fall from God, they have been so filled with faith and love, (and generally in a moment,) that sin vanished, and they found, from that time, no pride, anger, evil desire, or unbelief. They could rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks. Now, whether we call this the destruction or suspension of sin, it is a glorious work of God; such a work as, considering both the depth and extent of it, we never saw in these kingdoms before.

“ It is possible, some who spoke in this manner were mistaken ; and it is certain, some have lost what they then received. A few (very few compared to the whole number) first gave way to enthusiasm, then to pride, next to prejudice and offence, and at last separated from their brethren. But although this laid a huge stumblingblock in the way, still the work of God went on, nor has it ceased to this day in any of its branches. God still convinces, justifies, sanctifies. We have lost only the dross, the enthusiasm, the prejudice and offence. The pure gold remains, ' faith working by love, and, we have ground to believe, increases daily.”

The doctrines of the Bible, of the Reformation, and of the Church of England, were now preached in almost every part of the land. Present salvation by grace through faith,' and universal obedience as the fruit thereof, urged on the consciences of men, caused practical Christianity again to revive : And, to use the words of a pious and elegant writer,*

*“ Leaning on her fair daughters, Truth and Love, she took a solemn walk through the kingdom, and gave a foretaste of heaven to all that entertained her." “ She might,” says he, “ by this time have turned this favourite isle into a land flowing with spiritual milk and honey, if Apollyon, disguised in his angelic robes, had not played, and did not continue to play, his old (Antinomian) game."

* The late Rev. Mr. Fletcher, Vicar of Madely, Salor.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »