« FöregåendeFortsätt »
soon to die, and who felt that they had greatly sinned. He composed many hymns, most strikingly suited to their unhappy condition; and used to come, as before mentioned, to the Chapel-house in the Cityroad, and after reading those hymns to us, he used to call us to unite in prayer for these outcasts of men. When we arose, something of that peculiarity would sometimes appear which I have already noted. He would ask, “ Can you believe ?". And upon our answering “ Yes, sir,” he would flourish his hand over his head, and cry out, "We shall have them all !” and immediately hasten away to the cells to hold out life to the dead.
But I must conclude a subject that lies near my heart, and of which I could never be weary. Yet I must mention the remarkable gift which he possessed, of promptness in answering attacks, or replying to the remarks of those who attempted to hedge him in. Soon after the work of God began, the question of Absolute Predestination was introduced among the people, and was soon followed by Antinomianism. Mr. Charles Wesley was roused to the most determined opposition against this evil, which was making havoc of the people around him. One day, he was preaching in Moorfields, and having mentioned those things, he added, “ You may know one of these zealots by his bad temper." А person in the crowd immediately vociferated, “ You lie !" “Ha!" says Mr. C. Wesley, “have I drawn out leviathan with a hook ?"
An anecdote, which he related to me himself, is perhaps still more striking. When that dignified character, Dr. Robinson, primate of Ireland, and who was raised to the temporal peerage, was at the Hot-wells, near Bristol, he met Mr. C. Wesley in the pump-room. They were both of Christ-church, Oxford. The Archbishop seemed glad to see his old fellow collegian, and conversed with him freely. After some time, he observed, “Mr. Wesley, you must be sensible that I have heard many things of you and your brother ; but I have not believed them : I knew you better. But one thing has always surprised me,your employing laymen."
C.W.-It is your fault, my lord.
brethren's. Archbishop.-How so, sir ?
C. W.-Why, my lord, you hold your peace, and so the stones cry out.
They took a turn in silence. His grace however rallied :
C. W.-Very true, my lord ; in general, they are so : so the dumb ass rebukes the prophet.
His grace immediately turned the conversation.
I shall conclude this sketch of the character of this great and most estimable man, by expressing my conviction of him also, as of his brother, that
" I nc'er shall look upon his like again!"
THE THREE LAST YEARS OF MR. WESLEY'S LIFE-HIS LAST ILLNESS
AND DEATH-THE INSCRIPTION ON HIS TOMB-HIS LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT.
The long life graciously dispensed to these brothers in the flesh and in the Lord, was a blessing to the people under their care. The want of the personal superintendence of Mr. C. Wesley, in his latter years, was but little felt while his brother continued in the full enjoyment of his vast powers. But the time drew near when he also must prove, that it is appointed unto men once to die.' This awful hour began now to be very generally anticipated, accompanied with inquiries concerning the probable consequences of his death to that great work of which he had been the father, and still continued the chief instrument. He alone seemed without carefulness. That it was a work of God, and consequently that it would no more come to an end than the word that was given, and by which it had been formed, seemed never for a moment to depart from his mind. That his death must be sudden, was a very general thought ; “for, if the people apprehend danger, they will keep him here while prayer will be heard.” Careful to do the work of Him that sent him, all other care he cast upon Him in whom is the life of man. December 31, 1788, he makes the following remarks :
26 A numerous company concluded the old year with a very solemn watchnight. Hitherto God hath helped us; and we neither see nor feel any
of those terrible judgments which, it was said, God would pour out upon the nation, about the conclusion of the year.”—And again notes, that, “for near seventy years, I have observed, that before any war or public calamity, England abounds with prophets, who confidently foretel many terrible things. They generally believe themselves ; and are seldom undeceived, even by the failure of their predictions."
On his birth-day, (June 28, 1788,) Mr. Wesley observes, “I this day enter on my eighty-sixth year. And what cause have I to praise God, as for a thousand spiritual blessings, so for bodily blessings also ! How little have I suffered yet, by the rush of numerous years! It is true I am not so agile as I was in times past: I do not run or walk so fast as I did. My sight is a little decayed: my left eye is grown dim, and hardly serves me to read. I have daily some pain in the ball of my right eye, as also in my right temple, (occasioned by a blow received some months since,) and in my right shoulder and arm, which I impute partly to a sprain and partly to the rheumatism. I find likewise soine decay in my memory with regard to names, and things lately past; but not at all with regard to what I have read or heard twenty, forty, or sixty years ago. Neither do I find any decay in my hearing, smell, taste, or appetite, (though I want but a third part of the food I did once,) nor do I feel any such thing as weariness, either in travelling or preaching. And I am not conscious of any decay in writing sermons, which I do as readily, and I believe as correctly, as ever.
* To what cause can I impute this, that I am as I am ? First, doubtless, to the power of God, fitting me for the work to which I am called, as long as he pleases to continue me therein ; and 'next, subordinately to this, to the prayers of his children.
“ May we not impute it as inferior means :
“2. To my never having lost a night's sleep, sick or well, at land or at sea, since I was born ?
"3. To my having sleep at command, so that whenever I feel myself almost worn out, I call it, and it comes, day or night?
“4. To my having constantly, for above sixty years, risen at four in the morning?
“5. To my constant preaching at five in the morning, for above fifty years?
“6. To my having had so little pain in my life, and so little sorrow, or anxious care?
“ Even now, though I find pain daily in my eye, or temple, or arm, yet it is never violent, and seldom lasts many minutes at a time.
“ Whether or not this is sent to give me warning that I am shortly to quit this tabernacle I do not know
; but be it one way or the other, I have only to say,
My remnant of days
I spend to his praise
Be they many or few,
My days are his due,
And they all are devoted to him !" It had been reported that Mr. Charles Wesley had said a little before he died, that his brother would outlive him but one year. Mr. Wesley did dot
much attention to this, but he seemed to think, that considering his years, and the symptoms of decay which he had marked in himself, such an event was highly probable. Yet he made not the least alteration in his manner of living, or in his labours. He often said to me, during that year, “Now what ought I to do in case I am to die this year? I do not see what I can do but to go on in my labour just as I have done hitherto.” And in his Journal he remarks, “ If this is to be the last year of my life, I hope it will be the best. I am not careful about it, but heartily receive the advice of the angel in Milton,
• How well is thine : How long permit to heaven." In conversing on this subject, before he left London, he observed to me, “ Mr. (afterwards Sir) James Stonehouse said, many years ago, that
my brother and I should die in the harness. My brother did not, but I believe I shall.”
He accordingly refused to listen to the advice of many who loved him, and contrary to their earnest entreaties went to Ireland at the usual time. He travelled through that kingdom once more, preaching and meeting the societies as he had used to do. While on this journey he was attacked with a complaint entirely new to him, ---a diabetes. Being at that time in London, he wrote to me, and described the symptoms of this disorder, desiring me to consult Dr. Whitehead, and let him know what the Doctor should advise. I did so, and the Doctor wrote for him; but he observed to me, that if the complaint should continue it
would shorten his life ; his advanced age could not bear it. plaint abated, but he was never entirely delivered from it; it gave him some uneasiness even to the last.
In Dublin he made the following remarks on his birth-day: “ This day I enter on my eighty-seventh year. I now find I grow old.-1. My sight is decayed, so that I cannot read a small print, except in a strong light.-2. My strength is decayed, so that I walk much slower than I did some years since.-3. My memory of names, whether of persons or places, is decayed: I am obliged to stop a little to recollect them. What I should be afraid of is, (if I took thought for the morrow,) that my body should weigh down my mind, and create either stubbornness, by the decrease of my understanding, or peevishness, by the increase of bodily infirmities. But thou shalt answer for me, O Lord my God!"
On the first day of the following year, (1790,) he remarks : I am now an old man, decayed from head to foot. My eyes are dim; my right hand shakes much; my mouth is hot and dry every morning. I have a lingering fever almost every day. My motion is weak and slow. However, blessed be God, I do not slack my labour. I can preach and write still."
Being in the house with him when he wrote thus, I was greatly surprised. I knew it must be as he said; but I could not imagine his weakness was so great. He still rose at his usual hour, four o'clock, and went through the many duties of the day, not indeed with the same apparent vigour, but without complaint, and with a degree of resolution that was astonishing. He would still, as he afterwards remarks,“ do a little for God before he dropped into the dust."
I should greatly rejoice to be able to testify that his days of weakness were days of uninterrupted tranquillity. That he might enjoy even more than
“ The soul's calm sunshine and the heartfelt joy,” was certainly the wish of every benevolent mind. God had made all those who had been his enemies in years past, to be at peace with him. But he had still to contend with that “ jealousy' which is cruel as the grave,' and never to be satisfied,
He often observed, that in a course of fifty years, he had never, either premeditatedly or willingly varied from the Church of England in one article, either of doctrine or discipline ; but that through necessity, not choice, he had slowly and warily, and with as little offence as possible, varied in some points of discipline, by preaching in the fields, by extemporary prayer, by employing lay-preachers, by forming and regulating societies, and by holding yearly conferences ; but that he did none of these things till he was convinced of the necessity of them, and could no longer omit them but at the peril of his soul. And his constant wish and prayer was, that all who laboured with him, or were under his care, might herein tread in his steps.
To straiten the terms of church communion is seldom serviceable to a church. Were it certain that none are of the Church of England who violate its rules, it would follow that the church has exceeding few members, even among the Clergy. There are but few of these who do not secretly disapprove of some of the articles, and openly violate many of the canons. It would be safer, as well as more liberal, to allow every one to be of the church who attends its worship and receives its sacraments; and it will be hard to prove they are not. A national church must comprehend all the king's subjects, especially all who are willing to be so comprehended.
The generality of the preachers and people in connexion with Mr. Wesley, were of the established church. Nevertheless, as a defence against the violence of brutal men, the greater number of the preachers and chapels were licensed according to the toleration act. That act, we are sensible, was made for the protection of those who dissent from the established chureh, and particularly to free them from the penalties of the Conventicle Act. The preachers who laboured with, and the societies which were formed by Mr. Wesley, reposed, however, under the shadow of the act of toleration. But about three years before Mr. Wesley's death, certain friends of the church resolved to deal wisely with them.' They considered, “ These men profess to be of the Church of England. What then have they to do with the Toleration Act. They shall have no benefit from it." And they acted accordingly. In vain did those who applied for licenses plead that they only desired to defend themselves against the violence of ungodly and lawless men, and to avoid the penalties of an act, which, perhaps, was made to prevent seditious meetings, but in reality forbids religious assemblies of every description, except in the churches of the Establishment. The answer was short, “You shall have no license, unless you declare yourselves Dissenters.” Some, who considered that the holding meetings for prayer or preaching, without the authority of the Diocesan, was in fact a kind of dissent, declared their willingness (though others refused this concession) to be called Dissenters in the certificate. But neither did this avail them. They were told, “You must not only profess yourselves. Dissenters ; you must declare that you scruple to attend the service or sacraments of the church, or we can grant you no relief; for the act in question was made only for those who have these scruples."
În various places both preachers and people were thus treated. In the mean time the informers were not idle. If any one dared to have preaching, or a meeting for prayer or Christian fellowship in his house, information was given, and all that were present at the meeting were fined, according to the penal clauses laid down in the conventicle act. A great majority of those who thus offended were tradesmen and labourers, who severely felt the fines which were thus levied upon them. Some appealed to the Quarter-Sessions, but no relief could be obtained ; they had no license, and therefore the law, as thus interpreted, showed them no mercy.
Mr. Wesley saw this evil with a degree of pain which he had seldom experienced. He perceived whereto it tended, and that, if persisted in, it would oblige him to give up the work in which he had been engaged, and which he believed to be the work of God; or to separate from the Established Church. This was to him a most painful alternative. Wishing to be relieved from it, he stated the case to a Member of Parliament, a real friend to religious liberty, in the following manner : 66 Last month a few poor people met together in Lincolnshire, to pray to and praise God in a friend's house : There was no preaching at all
. Two neighbouring justices fined the man of the house twenty pounds. I
suppose he was not worth twenty shillings. Upon this, his household