Sidor som bilder

goods were distrained and sold to pay the fine. He appealed to the Quarter-Sessions ; but all the Justices averred, • The Methodists could have no relief from the act of toleration, because they went to Church; and that, so long as they did so, the conventicle act should be executed upon them.'

“ Last Sunday, when one of our preachers was beginning to speak to a quiet congregation, a neighbouring justice sent a constable to seize him, though he was licensed ; and would not release him till he had paid twenty pounds, telling him “ his license was good for nothing, because he was a Churchman.'

“ Now, Sir, what can the Methodists do? They are liable to be ruined by the conventicle act, and they have no relief from the act of toleration! If this is not oppression, what is ? Where then is English liberty ? the liberty of Christians ? yea, of every rational creature, who, as such, has a right to worship God according to bis own conscience ? But, waiving the question of right and wrong, what prudence is there in oppressing such a body of loyal subjects ? If these good Magistrates could drive them, not only out of Somersetshire, but out of England, who would be gainers thereby? Not his Majesty, whom we honour and love : not his Ministers, whom we love and serve for his sake. Do they wish to throw away so many thousand friends, who are now bound to them by stronger ties than that of interest ?-If you will speak a word to Mr. Pitt on that head, you will oblige,” &c.

Dr. Whitehead observes, “ The paper from which the above is taken is only a copy; and I have some doubt whether Somersetshire be not inserted for Lincolnshire, before mentioned in the same paper.

** However this may be, Mr. Wesley wrote to the Bishop of the following letter a few months before the above was written:

“ My Lord,-I am a dying man, having already one foot in the grave. Humanly speaking, I cannot long creep upon the earth, being now nearer ninety than eighty years of age. But I cannot die in peace, before I have discharged this office of Christian love to your Lordship. I write without ceremony, as neither hoping nor fearing any thing from your Lordship, or from any man living. And I ask, in the name and in the presence of Him, to whom both you and I are shortly to give an account, why do you trouble those that are quiet in the land ? those that fear God and work righteousness? Does your Lordship know what the Methodists are ? That many thousands of them are zealous members of the Church of England, and strongly attached, not only to his Majesty, but to his present Ministry? Why should your Lordship, setting religion out of the question, throw away such a body of respectable friends ? Is it for their religious sentiments ? Alas, my Lord ! is this a time to persecute any man for conscience' sake? I beseech you, my Lord, do as you would be done to. You are a man of sense ; you are a man of learning; nay, I verily believe, (what is of infinitely more value,) you are a man of piety. Then think, and let think.— I pray God to bless you with the choicest of his blessings.

“I am, my Lord,” &c. * No. It was in Somersetshire. Mr. Andrew Inglis was fined thus during the Bristol Conference, in the year 1790. The lawyer at the head of this persecution boasted that he would drive Methodism out of Somersetshire. Yes," said Mr. Wesley, “ when he drives God out of it."

To a prelate, in whose diocess this kind of persecution was, 1

suppose, still more violent, he wrote the following letter :

- My LORD,—It may seem strange, that one who is not acquainted with your Lordship should trouble you with a letter. But I am constrained to do it: I believe it is my duty both to God and your Lordship. And I must speak plain ; having nothing to hope or fear in this world, which I am on the point of leaving.

“ The Methodists, in general, my Lord, are members of the Church of England. They hold all her doctrines, attend her service, and partake of her sacraments. They do not willingly do harm to any one, but do what good they can to all. To encourage each other herein, they frequently spend an hour together in prayer and mutual exhortation. Permit me then to ask, Cui bono ? For what reasonable end' would your Lordship drive these people out of the Church? Are they not as quiet, as inoffensive, nay, as pious as any of their neighbours ? Except perhaps here and there a hairbrained man, who knows not what he is about. Do you ask, “Who drives them out of the Church ?' Your Lordship does ; and that in the most cruel manner; yea, and the most disingenuous manner. They desire a license to worship God after their own conscience. Your Lordship refuses it ; and then punishes them for not having a license! So your Lordship leaves them only this alternative, Leave the Church, or starve.' And is it a Christian, yea a Protestant bishop, that so persecutes his own flock ? I say persecutes : for it is persecution, to all intents and purposes. You do not burn them indeed, but you starve them : and how small is the difference! And your Lordship does this under colour of a vile, execrable law, not a whit better than that de Hæretico comburendo !* So persecution, which is banished out of France, is again countenanced in England !

“O my Lord, for God's sake, for Christ's sake, for pity's sake, suffer the poor people to enjoy their religious, as well as 'civil liberty! I am on the brink of eternity! Perhaps so is your Lordship too! How soon may you also be called to give an account of your stewardship to the Great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls! May he enable both you and me to do it with joy! So prays, my Lord, “ Your Lordship’s dutiful son and servant,

" JOHN WESLEY. Hull, June 26, 1790."

Mr. Wesley had hitherto ordained ministers only for America and Scotland. But during the period I have mentioned, being assisted by other presbyters of the Church of England, he set apart a certain number of preachers for the sacred office by the imposition of his hands and prayer, without sending them out of England. One of these he ordained after writing the above letter, and but a short time before his death ; strongly advising them, at the same time, that, according to his example, they should continue united to the Established Church, so far as that work of God in which they were engaged would permit.

To avoid an extreme so very painful to him as separating from the Church, he took counsel with some of his friends, who advised that an application should be made to Parliament for the repeal of the Conventicle Act. Several of the members of the House of Commons who were convinced of his sincere attachment to the present government, and of the inexpediency of that law in the present day, were inclined to favour the application. But his increasing infirmities prevented his bestowing that attention upon it which was needful. He would omit none of his religious duties or labours. Herein he would listen to no advice. lis almost continual prayer was, “ Lord, let me not live to be useless !” At every place, after giving to the society what he desired them to consider as his last advice, • To love as brethren, fear God, and honour the king,' he invariably concluded with that verse :

* Concerning the burning of heretics.

Ob that without a ling'ring groan

I may the welcoine word receive;
My body with my charge lay down,

And cease at once to work and live! In this manner he went on till the usual time of his leaving London approached. Determined not to relax, be sent his chaise and horses before him to Bristol, and took places for himself and his friend in the Bath coach. But the vigorous mind could no longer support the body. It sunk, though by slow and almost imperceptible degrees, until

The weary wheels of life stood still at last. On Thursday the 17th of February, 1791, he preached at Lambeth. When he came home he seemed not to be well : And being asked, How he did ? he said, He believed he had caught cold.

Friday the 18th. He read and wrote as usual, and preached at Chelsea in the evening. But he was obliged to stop once or twice, and to inform the people his cold so affected his voice as to prevent his speaking without those necessary pauses,

Saturday the 19th. He filled up most of his time with reading and writing, though his fever and weakness seemed evidently increasing. At dinner he desired a friend to read to him three or four chapters out of the book of Job. He rose (according to custom) early the next morning, but utterly unfit for his Sabbath-day's exercise. At seven o'clock he was obliged to lie down, and slept between three and four hours. When he awoke he said, “I have not had such a comfortable sleep this fortnight past.” In the afternoon he lay down again, and slept an hour or two : Afterwards two of his own Discourses on our Lord's Sermon on the Mount were read to him, and in the evening he came down to supper.

Monday the 21st. He seemed much better; and though his friends tried to dissuade him from it, would keep an engagement made some time before to dine at Twickenham. When he returned home he seemed better : And on Tuesday went on with his usual work ; and preached in the evening at the chapel in the City-road.

On Wednesday he went to Leatherhead, and preached to a small company on Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, and call ye upon him while he is near.' Here ended the ministerial labours of this man of God. On Thursday he stopped at Mr. Wolff's at Balaam. At this

* The question mooted above was carefully prepared, and came to issue about twenty years after, in what has been called Lord Sidmouth's Bill. The issue was decisive, and caused a reaction that set the question completely at rest, and obtained for religious liberty a more solid basis. His majesty's ministers behaved on that occasion with the greatest candour and liberality.


place he was cheerful ; and seemed nearly as well as usual, till Friday about breakfast time, when he grew very heavy. About eleven o'clock he returned home ; and, having sat down in his room, desired to be left alone, and not to be interrupted for half an hour by any one.

When the limited time was expired some mulled wine was given him. He drank a little and seemed sleepy; but in a few minutes threw it up, and said, " I must lie down.” He accordingly was put to bed, and lay most of the day, having a quick pulse and a burning fever.

Saturday the 26th. He continued much the same; spoke but little, and if roused to answer a question, or take a little refreshment, (which was seldom more than a spoonful at a time, he soon dosed again.

On Sunday morning he got up, took a cup of tea, and seemed much better. While sitting in his chair he looked quite cheerful, and repeated the latter part of that verse in the Scripture Hymns on • Forsake me not when my strength faileth ;'

Till glad I lay this body down,

Thy servant, Lord, attend;
And O! my life of niercy crown

With a triumphant end! Soon after, in a most emphatical manner he said, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.' Some who were then present, speaking rather too much to him, he tried to exert himself, but was soon exhausted and obliged to lie down. After a while he looked


and said, Speak to me, I cannot speak."--On which one of the company said, “ Shall we pray with you, sir ?"_He earnestly replied, "Yes.” And while they prayed his whole soul seemed engaged with God for an answer, and he added a hearty AMEN.

About half after two he said, “There is no need for more than what I said at Bristol. My words then were,

• I the chief of sinners am,

But Jesus died for me !""* One said, “ Is this the present language of your heart, and do you now feel as you then did ?" He replied, “ Yes.” When the same person repeated,

“ Bold I approach th' eternal throne,

And claim the crown through Christ my own;" and added, " T is enough. He, our precious Immanuel, has purchased, has promised all;" he earnestly replied, “ He is all! He is all!" and then said, " I will go.” Soon after to his niece Miss Wesley, who sat by his bedside, he said, "Sally, have you zeal for God now?" After this the fever was very high, and at times affected his head : But even

* At the Bristol Conference in the year 1783, Mr. Wesley was taken very ill: Neither he nor his friends thought he would recover. From the nature of his complaint, he thought a spasm would probably seize his stomach, and occasion sudden death. Under these views of his situation, he said to Mr. Bradford, “ I have been reflecting on my past life: I have been wandering up and down between fifty and sixty years, endeavouring in my poor way to do a little good to my fellow creatures; and now, it is probable that there are but a few steps between me and death; and what have I to trust to for salvation ? I can see nothing which I have done or suffered that will bear looking at. I have no other plea than

"" I the chief of sinners am,

But Jesus died for me." The sentiment here expressed, and his reference to it in his last sickness, plainly show how steadily he had persevered in the same views of the Gospel with which he set out to preach it. VOL. II.



then, though his head was subject to a temporary derangement, his heart seemed wholly engaged in his Master's work.

In the evening he got up again, and while sitting in his chair, he said, How necessary is it for every one to be on the right foundation !

• I the chief of sinners am,

But Jesus died for me.'
We must be justified by faith, and then go on to full sanctification.”
He slept most of the following day,

and spoke but little ; yet that little testified how much his whole heart was taken up in the care of the churches, the glory of God, and the things pertaining to that kingdom to which he was hastening. Once in a low, but


distinct voice, he said, “ There is no way into the holiest but by the blood of Jesus.'

He afterwards inquired what the words were on which he preached at Hampstead a short time before. He was told they were these : 'Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. He replied, “ That is the foundation, the only foundation : There is no other." He also repeated three or four times in the space of a few hours, . We have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.

Tuesday, March 1st. After a very restless night, (though when asked whether he was in pain, he generally answered “No," and never complained through his whole illness, except once when he felt a pain in his left breast when he drew his breath, he began singing,

All glory to God in the sky,

And peace upon earth be restored!
O Jesus, exalted on high,

Appear our omnipotent Lord !
Who, meanly in Bethlehem born,

Didst stoop to redeem a lost race;
Once more to thy people return,

And reign in thy kingdom of grace.
0! wouldst thou again be made known,

Again in the Spirit descend;
And set up in each of thine own

A kingdom that never shall end !
Thou only art able to bless,

And make the glad nations obey ;
And bid the dire enmity cease,

And bow the whole world to thy sway. Here his strength failed: But after lying still awhile, he called for a pen and ink. They were brought to him : But those active fingers, which had been the blessed instruments of conveying spiritual consolation and useful instruction to thousands, could no longer perform their office. Some time after, he said, “I want to write :" But on the pen's being put into his hand, and the paper held before him, he said, “I cannot."

One of the company answered, “ Let me write for you, sir ; tell me what you.


say. Nothing,” replied he, “but that God is WITH US." In the forenoon he said, “I will get up." While they were bringing his clothes, he broke out in a manner which, considering his extreme weakness, astonished all present, in these words :

I'll praise my Maker while I 've breath,
And when my voice is lost in death,

Praise shall employ my nobler powers:

[ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »